14 More Realities of Family Court; Dealing with Children


14 More Realities of Family Court Litigation:  General Rules for Dealing with Children

This list is based on 24 years of practice in the Family Courts of South Carolina.  Family Court matters are very fact specific and full of emotion and pain.  These guidelines are painful for many clients to hear, but are necessary nonetheless.   A wise client realizes that their attorney will not (and should not, in reality) tell them everything that the client wants to hear.  Any such legal advice should be viewed with caution.

  1. Playing with the minds and emotions of children is inexcusable. Children are not your pawns to fight the other parent.  Denying contact with the other parent, saying bad things about the other parent or in any way undermining the other parent only hurts your child.  The child loves you both, no matter what the other parent has done.  The child will make up his own mind about both parents in time.  You don’t have to do a thing.
  2. Similarly, popping in and out a child’s life is equally inexcusable. Children need consistency.  Don’t say that you are going to visit and then not show up.  Don’t say you will call and fail to do so.  It’s rotten and it hurts your child.  So do what needs to be done for your child.  Don’t make excuses.
  3. If you really can’t be a parent, and an active, involved step-parent wants to adopt, let them. Don’t be selfish.  The child is not going to be angry that you “didn’t fight.”  The child may very well be angry that you stood in the way of a more normal parental figure when you were unable or unwilling to be one.  Don’t get me wrong here, no active, involved non-custodial parent has ever had his or her rights involuntarily terminated.  That just doesn’t happen.  You know if you are cutting it or not as a parent.  If you haven’t seen your child in three years, you are not a good parent.  Let it go.
  4. Children need your support, in both money and time. Don’t demand an “accounting” for your child support payments.   The Court is not going to require an accounting and you will simply look petty.  Pay what the guidelines require.  If your income changes a great deal, go back to Court.  Don’t just fail to pay it.
  5. If the other parent fails to support the child, don’t talk about it in front of the child. Failure to pay child support has no effect at all on visitation.  The two issues are not related.  You cannot deny visitation because the non-custodial parent did not pay support.
  6. Both parents get to know everything about the children and get to go to all the child’s events. Unless there is a specific restraining order saying that the non-custodial parent cannot go to the school, events, etc., then both parents get to know everything and go to everything.  Restraining orders like this are exceedingly rare.  I can recall only two in my entire 24 year career.
  7. It is trashy to expose your child to multiple paramours. If you feel the need to engage in what the Courts refer to as “flagrant promiscuity”, do your kids a favor and don’t do it around them.  No kid needs to see such behavior.  And never, ever have them refer to the paramour as “mama” or “daddy.”
  8. Only biological parents should spank kids. Period.  I’m not advocating corporal punishment here, but if it is going to be done, only the biological parents should do it.  Having a step-parent or worse yet, a paramour, do it is just an awful idea.
  9. Don’t let third parties tell you how to parent. If you feel that you and the other parent are doing well and handling things, don’t let a grandparent or significant other interfere.  This is the root cause of many litigations.
  10. Try to see things as your child sees them. Remember that the child loves all the adults in his or her life.  The child will try to please you, even if it means saying what you want to hear.  The child knows more than you think about what is going on.  He sees both your faults and the faults of the other parent.  He loves you both anyway.
  11. If you cannot communicate with the other parent, you are putting the child in charge. Period.  Is that really what you want?  I don’t think so.  A child will quickly learn to manipulate both parents in this situation.
  12. There is no room for drug use in parenting. If you are going to use drugs, stay away from your kids.  The same goes for excessive consumption of alcohol.
  13. If you are in a violent relationship, you are teaching your children that violent relationships are normal and okay. You are also putting your children in danger.
  14. If you don’t know the person well, don’t leave your child with him. There have been numerous stories this year about mothers (typically) leaving an infant with a boyfriend and the child ends up dead.  Just don’t do this.  It’s stupid.  Find a babysitter.  Get a daycare voucher.  Don’t leave your kids with a boyfriend or girlfriend.


If you need help with a custody or visitation matter, contact Goodwin at mj@mjgoodwin.com

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