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Four tips for fathers facing a combative ex in custody disputes

Fathers have long seen challenges in family court, especially when it comes to matters of child custody and parenting. The legal system alone presents obstacles by way of unfair processes and outdated biases.

Some fathers seeking custody or access to their children can face another complication: a combative ex. Below are four tips for fathers navigating this experience:

1. Get everything in writing

People misremember conversations, misinterpret tone or fabricate details. To avoid this, get important discussions in writing if the other party is unreliable or volatile.

For example, if you and your ex agree to change details of an exchange, get the agreement in an email or text. Doing so proves you had an agreement should you ever face accusations of a custody violation.

2. Stay calm and composed

Fathers can come across as hot-tempered and aggressive when they get angry, and they can seem intimidating in the eyes of a former partner, a children's aid society, or the courts. Controlling these emotions is crucial.

Unfortunately, this is easier said than done when an ex knows the buttons to press to upset a father. Anticipate this - especially if your ex has a history of instigating arguments - and prepare accordingly. You might bring a friend for support if you are going to meet your ex or work through your emotions with the help of a therapist.

3. Avoid social media

Everything a person says and does on social media can come under scrutiny during a divorce or child custody dispute.

Pictures of you out with friends or a new partner at night can be taken out of context; commiserating about the challenges of single parenting can be mistaken as an indication that a person does not want to be a parent. As such, avoiding social media during legal disputes is simply prudent.

4. Take false allegations seriously

Legitimate concerns and reports of abuse, violence or neglect can affect a father's time with his children. However, too many men become the target of false allegations of this nature due to an angry and vindictive ex.

Knowingly making false statements is a criminal offence and can at least theoretically result in charges including perjury and obstruction of justice. I wish that the law would take false allegations more seriously.  Perhaps the time has come where the courts will ultimately put a stop to blatantly false allegations.  There should be consequences for misleading the court.  

Fathers face heavy challenges in the family legal system. To navigate these more easily, consider these tips, and talk to your lawyer about legal remedies to protect your rights.

And now a word for moms - Fathers do not have a monopoly as victims of false allegations or as persons who experience injustices that I have outlined here.  Many mothers face similar challenges.  No matter what your gender, keeping calm and balanced during family law conflict is essential.

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