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  • Writer's pictureStephen Williams

One Frequent Answer to 1000s of Frequently Asked Child Custody Questions

“My life has been filled with terrible misfortune, most of which never happened.” – Michel de Montagne

Or, if you go to church in the South: “F.E.A.R. – False Evidence Appearing Real”

I provide specific answers to other specific and frequently asked questions in other articles. This article is really more about the class or category, or flavor, if you will, of the questions I get absolutely most often in reviewing and litigating Child Custody cases…

hypothetical questions.

Many come in the form of “what do I do if my co-parent doesn’t show up for Friday’s visitation,” or “what if Co-Parent brings up that thing that happened 5 years ago?”

Here’s my answer to all such questions….

“Then we’ll deal with it.”

This topic, itself, and discussion thereof, is rife with cliche. I use the variant, “we’ll cross that bridge when we get there,” quite often. My internal monologue lands on “if you give a mouse a cookie, it’s gonna want some milk” because if I make the rare mistake of engaging a hypothetical with a client then there will always be another one where that came from. It can go on for hours, which leads me to make sure I make this next point for you, the reader…

If I sound frustrated, I promise I am not. What I am is genuinely concerned for the effectiveness and physical and mental health of my clients and the best interests of their children.

If I client dealing with a Child Custody matter can sit down with me in Foxtrot’s amazing office overlooking Lake Guntersville and spin hypothetical threads to no end, then take a wild guess what the client is doing on their own time. We have all spent certain nights staring at the ceiling, mulling over scenarios, rehashing old arguments and laying groundwork to win future ones. Its a waste of time and, worse, it’s unhealthy both mentally and physically, and, worst of all, it takes a toll on your children.

Two related scientific principles at work here are decision fatigue and willpower. You have a finite amount of decision-making fuel and mental endurance. It must make sense that if you’ve spent your decision-making energy on scenarios that don’t even exist, then you will have less in the tank for real decisions. You’ve experienced how a long day of work leads you to that “can’t even” moment at the end of the day. Is that the person you want caring for your child?

So here’s how it really goes down:

Client – what do I do if xyz?

Foxtrot – Then we’ll deal with it.

Client – okay, but what if abc?

Foxtrot – you’ve got plenty of real things to focus on here without worrying about hypotheticals. Don’t do that to yourself or your children. Between now and the next time we talk, here’s what you need to do and to focus on……

Are there exceptions to this general rule?

Yes and no, there are certain events that once they occur are so difficult to address and extremely difficult to “undo” that they warrant at least a short discussion. For example, what if my Co-Parent leaves moves out-of-state with my child and doesn’t say anything to me about it?

^^^This is a serious situation and it does happen, and it’s why anyone who is a Co-Parent or Relative Caregiver must have some agreement adopted by the Court or a Court Order addressing their current circumstances. By law, every such order prohibits a Co-Parent from relocating a certain distance without express written notification to other Co-Parents or Relative Caregivers. Please note that I said “prohibits” rather than “prevents” and that leads me to the NO part of this answer: a Court Order is a piece of paper – it grants you rights and remedies but it doesn’t build a bubble and it won’t stop a bullet, i.e., just because there’s a Court Order doesn’t mean it can’t happen. So, once client has worked with me to put in place a lawful Court Order restricting relocation and a client asks me what happens if a Co-Parent abducts the child….

Then we’ll deal with it. ~SW, Foxtrot

Three things to remember…

1. You simply must get comfortable with chaos. Be patient, go with the flow and make only the decisions that address reality. Come on, do you really expect to have all the answers as a parent?

2. Trust yourself. If you are doing what you need to do in your life, handling the basics, then you can best address whatever comes along.

3. Trust your lawyer. Take solace that you and your lawyer can work together effectively when the need arises, take a breath, then hug your child, or if they’re with their Co-Parent or at school send them love and light, and go on about your day.

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