The information contained herein is going to be most useful prior to the start of the separation process. Make sure you spend time with your child. This seems obvious, and a no brainer even when you are not looking at the probability of separating from your spouse, but sometimes people are overworked and do not spend the amount of time necessary to positively affect their child’s life. Keep in mind that your kid is going to be going through this separation as well and it’s going to be tough on them. Make it as easy for him/her as you can and start by getting familiar with these guidelines.
The reason I bring up the following is because North Carolina uses the 'best interest of the child standard' in determining custody. More on the nuts and bolts of custody here. If you are able to at least start to strengthen your relationship with your son/daughter prior to or at the start of separation, then you are going to stand a better chance of obtaining joint custody.
WHO'S YOUR CHILD'S TEACHER AND PEDIATRICIAN?
This is useful information not just to be able to tell a Judge, if custody ends up that far, but to know in general. It's always a great idea to know who the people are that your child comes in regular contact with. If your child goes to church, who's the priest, preacher, minister, rabbi, etc. that he or she normally hears from every Saturday or Sunday?
Know your kid's teachers names, school curriculum, and schedule. Keep up with their homework on a daily basis and make sure they are prepared for upcoming quizzes, tests, etc. Become familiar with which pediatrician’s office your child goes to and which pediatrician your kid sees when sick.
If you already do all this, then great, you are in a solid position to have at least joint custody. If you don’t do this, it’s not too late and you can start developing a healthier relationship with your kid while going through the difficult separation process together.
CREATE MEMORIES WITH YOUR CHILD
Get out of the house and off the couch. Go to a museum, a movie, a baseball game, or go hiking in the state park. Do something productive with your kid. Take some pictures with them. I completely understand that some people would rather just enjoy the moment and not interrupt it with 'picture time' (I'm one of those people); however, your kid's probably gonna wanna see and share some old photos when he/she is older, so just grin and bare it.
HAVE YOURSELF AND YOUR SPOUSE SIT DOWN WITH YOU CHILD
This is very important and necessary, but also difficult. If you and your spouse have decided that you cannot stay together and doing so would just make you both miserable; you need to make sure you are on the same page when you break the news to your kid.
Speak with your spouse ahead of time and explain that you want to make sure you both keep your child's best interest in mind going forward. This starts with both parents sitting the child down and letting them know what is going on and that changes will be made. I realize that getting two people that cannot stay together to agree on what to say to their child when separating is going to be difficult more times than not. However, if there is even the slightest bit of hope that this can happen, then it should be tried.
Next week I am going to be dipping into part 4 of the series and discussing finances and gathering financial information.
*Nothing in this blog post is to be taken as establishing an attorney-client relationship. This blog post is not to be construed as providing legal advice.