Don’t forget the art of the sting: Broken promises, false declarations under oath, and plans that never materialize.
Time and time again, a parent stands in family court and tells the judge something that is not likely to be true, or to come true. For example, a father exercising his visitation rights files a petition for increased parenting time during the day, claiming that his employer now requires him to work more night shifts. Or, a custodial parent challenges a Sunday visitation schedule with the children’s father because the children are allegedly enrolled in Sunday school or church-related activities every single Sunday.
Parents often don’t think through the assertions which they make in court…before making them. Is the father’s switch to night shifts a temporary adjustment by the employer, and if so, won’t he have to sleep during the day? And, are the children really enrolled in Sunday school year-round? Can’t their father take them to church on Sundays?
Occasionally, however, one of the reasons given by parents in support of a custody arrangement or in opposition to a visitation plan is the reason that changes the judge’s mind. The court may, in fact, cut off Sunday visits with dad if mom truly takes the kids to Sunday school and church, and if religion plays a significant role in the children’s lives.
If you find yourself doubtful of such things, and if you believe that a judge has accepted a parent’s declarations under oath without sufficient evidence, then it’s time for Plan B: The Art of the Sting. If a parent has been given a certain right in a custody or visitation case, based on faulty premises or flawed logic, then begin keeping a “roadmap” of activity by charting the course of events, beginning with the date the judge enters the court order. Keep a log of how many times the father actually works a night shift each week, week after week, and who actually watches the children during the day when they are with him at his home. Or, keep a log of how many Sundays the children actually spend at Sunday school or at church, and exactly what hours are consumed by this process, over the course of period of time.
The process may be a slow one, and it may entail a long course of careful record-keeping. Yet it may pay valuable benefits when the other parent next petitions the court for anything. Imagine a parent who next comes to court asking to double the length of his summertime vacation time with the children. At that point, you roll out the “sting.” You present the court with evidence of his last petition for an expansion of parenting time, of how he claimed his employer had moved him to night shifts, and how — three weeks later without any further notice to the court — his work schedule changed again. Show the court your “roadmap” consisting of your calendar entries and logs detailing how many times the father was actually required to report to work during the day when he claimed he would have been more available to watch the children.
By demonstrating to the court that the father has been disingenuous in requesting more visitation time in the past, and that he cannot reliably prove that he’ll be available to be with the kids, you can shut down his false promises, his false declarations, and his so-called “free time” that never really materializes.