One of the most important things to remember in a custody battle is that the court doesn't particularly care about the grievances between you and your ex-spouse—the court is mostly concerned with how well each parent fulfills his or her obligation to nurture and support the kids.
While family court judges have broad leeway to consider just about anything they consider an important factor when determining who should have custody of the kids, Michigan's statutes specifically include "the desire and ability of each parent to allow an open and loving frequent relationship" between the children and the non-custodial parent. If you aren't up to the task and your ex-spouse convinces the judge that he or she is, you can end up losing custody very fast.
Here are some of the major things that you want to avoid:
—Badmouthing your ex-spouse. Your ex-spouse may, in fact, be a liar, a cheat, a spendthrift and selfish—but you don't want to drag out a laundry list of your ex's faults and detail them to the kids every chance you get. Even small remarks, dropped often enough, could lead a judge to the conclusion that you are trying to sabotage your ex's relationship with his or her children.
—Post about your troubles with your ex-spouse on social media. If your ex is behind on the child support or failed to show up (again) on time to pick up the kids, take the issue up with your attorney and take it into court. Keep your fingers off the keyboard and keep the information off of Facebook and your other social media accounts. Those things have a way of coming back to bite their authors in court.
—Refuse to allow visitation because your spouse won't get help for his or her alcoholism, won't pay the support payment this month or any other reason. That doesn't mean you hand your child over to someone who is obviously intoxicated—you call the police instead and let the court handle it. It's also never appropriate to withhold visitation due to missing support payments—your ex doesn't have to pay in order to see his or her children.
If you're having trouble figuring out what is and is not okay to say to your children about your ex, consider family therapy sessions where a professional can help moderate the conversation. The advice of your attorney is also always a wise choice.
Source: FindLaw, "Child Custody: Summaries of State Laws," accessed Jan. 20, 2017