Written by Canterbury Law Group

What Not To Do During a Custody Battle

What Not To Do During a Custody Battle

Knowing what not to do during a custody battle and what the judge will look for can help you prepare the best case possible. While some missteps like lying in court are obvious, you might not have considered some actions that can hurt your case.

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Preparing For Court

Don’t lie in child custody court

What you say in court and the information you include on court forms must be true. Lying in court during a child custody case ruins your credibility.

The judge will look for the truth in each parent’s claims through custody evaluations, witness testimony and other evidence presented at trial. Lying in court during a child custody case could cause a parent to lose custody or be held responsible for paying the other parent’s legal fees.

Don’t refuse to participate in the case

Since court cases are often stressful and expensive, you might feel tempted to ignore the case altogether. Yet not taking part in a custody case could cause you to miss out on time with your child.

If you don’t answer the other parent’s filing, the court could issue a default judgment against you. This means the other parent would get everything they asked for without any input from you.

During your case, you’ll receive mailings that require a response, such as requests for documents and notices to appear in court. Ignoring these could lead to the dismissal of your case. Make sure you don’t leave the city or state for an extended period as these documents are typically sent to your last known address or workplace.

Don’t disrespect the other parent

One thing the judge will look for in a child custody case is whether a parent will encourage a relationship between their ex and the child. Disrespecting the other parent shows that you might not be capable of doing so.

Insults directed at your ex through social media, calls, texts and emails could all impact the verdict. You also shouldn’t make negative comments about your ex in front of others. What you say could come to light in court through witness testimony.

Don’t abuse alcohol or drugs

Substance abuse is a major mark against a parent in a custody battle. When you’re under the influence, you can’t be the parent your child needs — especially if you’re dependent on that substance to get through the day. Make responsible choices to show the court you’re fit to parent.

Don’t withhold your child

Withholding your child from the other parent is unique compared to other things not to do during a custody battle because it comes with a caveat: Keeping the child away from the other parent might be your only choice if the parent presents a clear danger.

When there aren’t any safety risks, denying the other parent access to the child will reflect poorly on you. Courts prefer to keep both parents involved in a child’s life and want to see that you can encourage a positive relationship between your child and your ex.

Don’t involve your child in the case

Your child may be the subject of the custody battle, but putting them in the middle will cause undue stress.

Spare them the details of the case, and turn the focus toward maintaining the routines the child is used to and spending quality time together. Distractions from what’s going on in the household like extracurriculars are particularly helpful in allowing some sense of normalcy.

Don’t bring new partners into your child’s life

Bringing a new partner into your child’s life is an often overlooked example of what not to do during a child custody battle. Your child will be in a fragile state during this time. A new partner could cause confusion and anger if your child assumes you’re trying to replace their other parent.

If you do have a new partner, don’t involve them in the case. Judges often frown upon parents who bring their partners to court because their presence could be a distraction. Outside of court, keep interactions between your partner and your ex to a minimum. Any confrontations that occur could help your ex’s case.

Don’t push for a trial without trying to compromise

Trial should be a last resort after all other attempts at a resolution have failed. Stay in charge of parenting decisions and jump-start your co-parenting relationship by negotiating a settlement with the other parent. If you find it difficult to resolve your differences with just the two of you, try an alternative dispute resolution method.

Don’t show up to court unprepared

Preparation is key in a custody battle. You’ll need to be ready to speak in front of the judge, propose a parenting plan and present solid evidence to back up your claims. If you have a lawyer, they will help you prepare.

If you represent yourself, review your state’s child custody laws and rules of evidence to avoid presenting evidence that the court cannot consider. For example, in some states, recording phone conversations without the other person’s permission is illegal. Illegally-obtained recordings hurt your credibility and can’t be used in court.

Don’t behave badly in the courtroom

Your behavior in the courtroom will have an impact on the final verdict. In a custody case, the judge will look at each parent’s actions in the courtroom as a reflection of their character.

Don’t talk out of turn or get into arguments with the other parent. Treat everyone in the courtroom and in the courthouse with respect.

Don’t disregard court orders

Temporary orders are often part of divorce and custody cases. These orders stay in effect until the court issues final orders.

If you have court orders for child support or visitation, make sure you follow them. Not doing so shows a lack of respect for the court and that you may not be capable of following the final custody order.

Also, don’t get into the habit of rescheduling time with your kids. Show up on time for pickups, and drop your child off as scheduled to show the court you can adhere to orders. Only stray from the order if absolutely necessary, and give the other parent proper notice.

What Is Parental Alienation?

Both judges are evaluators of child custody will seek the parent whose actions are positive and promote the relationships between the child or children and both parents. it is vital a parent never appears to be in a mode or retaliation or be vindictive or use financial issues as a weapon in matters of child custody. Therefore, parental alienation happens when a parent is guilty of causing a child or children to be negatively influenced towards the other parent of the child or children. On occasions this behavior can be unintentional but if often intentional and it is worth remembering parental alienation is not only a weapon used by one gender. Parental alienation is not gender specific any either parent is equally able to indulge in this destructive pattern of behavior should they wish to do so.

Parental Alienation Examples

There are many ways a child or children can be manipulated when one parent carries out acts of parental alienation. The goal is normally to separate the emotional bond a parent has with the child or children. The parent can do this by making negative comments about the parent directly to the child or children or to third parties but by ensuring the child or children can hear what is being said. These comments can have a great influence on a child or children who if they hear negative comments on a regular basis, become more credible and believable to the young minds who hear it. In the end, the result is often the child or children sees the other parent in the manner the way the accusatory parent has presented the situation to them.

Additionally, other members of the family may also join the accusatory parent in making alienating comments and actions towards the other parent in front of the child or children. These do not have to be outrageous statements, but just small comments and actions can help to cement negative thoughts towards the other parent. Nonetheless, with alienating, it is more often than not that not just one act or statement is negative, but usually the result of many small comments made over a prolonged period of time.

Signs of Parental Alienation

As we have discussed it is seldom one single action represents parental alienation but a series of actions and words and thoughts that manipulate a child or children negatively impact a parents’ relationship with their child or children. Undoubtedly some tactics used in parental alienation are extremely harmful but never more so than when a parent accuses the other of criminal activity. Especially when they do this in front of a child or children. This is a matter that needs to be acted on immediately. Here are some signs to look for that your child or children may be the victim of parental alienation:

  • Is a parent creating scenarios where the child or children misses when it is your time for visitation?
  • Has the attitude of your child or children changed from one of being pleased to see you to one of being angry towards you?
  • Does your child or children no longer use a familiar, informal name for you?
  • Does your child or children show signs of being uncomfortable around you?
  • Does your child or children only give very brief, monosyllabic answers?
  • Does the other parent turn up unexpectedly, creating drama and tension when there is no need to do so?
  • Does the other parent severely question the child or children following your visitation?
  • Does the other parent show resentment when you discuss enjoyable times with your child or children?
  • Does the child know matters regarding the divorce beyond what they need to know at their age?
  • Does it appear your parenting time is being cut short, altered or canceled at short notice?

There are three types of parental alienation.


  • Mild parental alienation: The child avoids contacting the alienated parent, but has a good relationship with them when the alienator is not around.
  • Moderate parental alienation: The child strongly resists contact with the alienated parent and is resentful when they do spend time together.
  • Severe parental alienation: The child insists on not having contact with the alienated parent. They may hide or run away to avoid being around the parent. In these cases, the alienator is determined to ruin the other parent’s relationship with the child.

Signs of parental alienation

Five factors help identify PA.


  • The child actively avoids, resists or refuses a relationship with the nonpreferred parent.
  • The child and nonpreferred parent once had a positive relationship.
  • The nonpreferred parent displays no abusive, neglectful or bad parenting behaviors.
  • The child shows many of the behaviors associated with parental alienation (more below).
  • The preferred parent shows multiple alienating behaviors (more below).

Behaviors of a child affected by parental alienation

A child affected by parental alienation may show eight behaviors. It’s important to note that these can also occur without parental manipulation.


  • Unfair criticism of the alienated parent (known as a campaign of denigration)
  • Unjustified harsh feelings toward the alienated parent
  • Exclusively negative feelings toward the alienated parent and only good feelings toward the alienator (known as a lack of ambivalence)
  • Insistence that all of their negative feelings and criticisms are their own (called the independent thinker phenomenon)
  • Consistent support of the alienator
  • Repetition of language and false stories told by the alienator
  • Lack of guilt about their hatred or mistreatment of the alienated parent
  • Extension of their dislike of the alienated parent to the alienated parent’s relatives

Behaviors of an alienating parent

An alienator’s behaviors may include:


  • Sharing personal information with the child (e.g., the other parent’s infidelities)
  • Preventing the child from talking to or visiting the alienated parent
  • Planning activities that they know will interfere with the alienated parent’s visitation time
  • Disobeying the parenting plan or refusing to negotiate a plan with the other parent
  • Hiding important information from the other parent (e.g., the child’s report card or medical records)
  • Monitoring all contact between the child and the alienated parent

It has been suggested that parents with behavioral issues like narcissistic personality disorder are more likely to be alienators. Though many people assume it’s more common for a mother to use a child against a father, parental alienation against a mother can also occur.

What to do about parental alienation

If you suspect parental alienation, seek professional help. It’s best to be proactive because the more severe PA becomes, the harder it is to treat.

A mediator, therapist, family counselor or child psychologist could help you figure out whether alienation is occurring and come up with a plan to improve your relationship with your child.

More research is needed to find a safe and effective treatment for PA. Current responses depend on the level of alienation.

  • Mild parental alienation: A judge could order parents to allow one another to have a healthy relationship with the child.
  • Moderate parental alienation: A parenting coordinator could help to reduce conflict and improve communication. Both parents and the child could also go to counseling. None of this will be effective if the alienator refuses to take part and continues alienating the child.
  • Severe parental alienation: The alienator might lose custody and only have supervised visits, while the child might have to attend reconciliation therapy with the alienated parent. This treatment may have negative side effects.

Parental Alienation Laws in Arizona & Effect on Child Custody (Legal Decision Making)

Title 25’s legal decision-making laws were last modified a couple of years ago when the Arizona state legislature decided it will be the responsibility of the court to engage both parents in the raising of a child or children. In light of this, clearly parental alienation is recognized as being a cause of damage to a child or children. When one parent has an established history of using parental alienation, it is less than likely they will be able to come to an agreement regarding parenting time or putting the best interests of the child or children first. In some cases, not even the use of lawyers or mediators assist in getting to this goal.

In such circumstances, a judge will consider what is in the best interest of the child or children. To make that determination, the judge will review  Arizona Code section 25-403.

The court is going to examine what parent is more likely to allow frequent, meaningful and continued custody with the other parent. So parental alienation can definitely count against a parent in these circumstances. The court may decide the child or children should be spend additional time with the other parent who is not involved in the practice of alienation tactics. In some circumstances, this alienation crosses a line into custodial interference where one parent violates current custody orders. In Arizona, this is considered a felony offense with possible jail time.

Source: “Parental Alienation.” Stewart Law Group, https://www.arizonalawgroup.com/child-custody/parental-alienation/

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*This information is not intended to be used as legal advice. Please contact Canterbury Law Group today to learn more about your personal legal needs. 480-744-7711 or [email protected]

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