A lot of people try to resolve their child custody differences on their own in hopes of avoiding the costs and stress of litigation. This is admirable, but you have to be extremely careful when doing this. Just because you think that you’re signing a legal document doesn’t mean that you are. In fact, you could be signing a piece of paper that is legally worthless, leaving you operating under the false assumption that you’ve entered into some sort of agreement with you ex.
What about notarized documents?
We see a lot of people who think that they’ve secured visitation rights or even physical custody by having an agreement notarized. While notaries have their role within our legal system, they don’t have the power to make a child custody or visitation arrangement legally binding. That differs significantly from the Mexican legal system, where notaries public have greater legal authority. So, you should scrutinize every agreement that is pushed your way.
Don’t be tricked into thinking that a notarized agreement will protect your interests. It won’t. These notarized legal agreements are essentially meaningless in our area. Therefore, if you’re having a child custody or visitation dispute, then you need to take formal legal action to solidify your rights and protect your relationship with your child. Failing to do so could have tragic consequences for you and your child.
Taking legal action to protect yourself and your relationship with your child
Only a formal court order is going to be legally binding on your child custody arrangement. This means that if you want to establish custody or modify an existing order, you’ll need to file a motion with the court. Then, you’ll need to be prepared to advocate for your position in light of what the law is and how it applies to the facts of your case.
It’s important to recognize that all child custody determinations focus on the best interests of the child. Therefore, you’ll want to be prepared to show how your proposed child custody arrangement is best for your child. Don’t overlook each of the following factors:
- The physical and mental health of each parent
- The child’s specific needs
- The financial stability of each parent
- Any history of domestic violence
- Any history of substance abuse
- Any history of abuse or neglect
- The educational opportunities available to the child with each parent
- The child’s relationship with each parent
- The child’s preferences, if he or she is old enough
These are just some of the factors that a court can take into consideration, but you should recognize that a judge can take into account just about anything that he or she deems relevant to the custody determination. That’s why you need to be armed with strong evidence to support your position, whether that be documentary or testimonial in nature. This could include criminal records, your own testimony, the testimony of other witnesses, or even reports from mental health providers. Just make sure that your evidence is targeted toward the legal elements that are in play.
Don’t be duped by unenforceable agreements
Far too often we see parents who think they’ve negotiated a favorable child custody arrangement only to discover that they’ve done nothing to legally protect their rights. Don’t let this happen to you. Instead, consider working closely with a skilled legal advocate who knows how to build strong custody cases. Only then can you ensure that you’re doing everything in your power to protect your child and your relationship with him or her.