There’s no doubt that going through divorce can be stressful. After all, you have to untangle your relationship with your spouse, which can involve a lot of emotional and financial pain. You’ll have to decide what to do with your house, how to divide retirement accounts, and who will keep certain pieces of personal property. As challenging as this may seem, it may pale in comparison to disputes over child custody and visitation.

The outcome of a child custody dispute can define your relationship with your child. For a noncustodial parent, it can dictate when you see your child, how frequently, for how long, and whether visits need to be supervised. For a custodial parent, the custody and visitation arrangement can determine how much time your child spends with his or her other parent, which may have an impact on his or her emotional and physical health. The deciding factor in these matters is the child’s best interests. This means that the parties, and the court, should try to reach an outcome that best supports the child’s needs.

Of course, this can be a highly contentious issue, meaning that you need to be armed with evidence to support your position. In many instances, substance abuse and/or domestic violence are issues that can have a tremendous impact. If that is the case, then you should think about gathering witnesses who can testify to events that demonstrate the other parent’s issues, as well as documentary evidence like police reports and no contact orders.

You could also benefit from putting forth evidence showing how exposure to domestic violence or substance abuse affects your child. These effects can be broad and wide-reaching. Children who are exposed to these circumstances may develop:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • A profound sense of responsibility as he or she takes on more of a parental role
  • Aggressive behaviors
  • An inability to build and maintain healthy relationships
  • Performance issues in school

Exposure to domestic violence and substance abuse can also increase the risk of your child being subjected to physical and emotional abuse or neglect. Taken together, these matters can threaten your child’s mental and physical safety in both the short and long-term.

This is why you need to be prepared to fight for your child. Sure, you might be able to negotiate a child custody arrangement that works for everyone, but this isn’t always the case. And even those who do can find themselves at odds with the child’s other parent as time goes on.

Child custody issues are often ongoing, too. If this stresses you out, you’re not alone. But the good news is that you don’t have to face these issues on your own. Instead, you can seek out the legal help you need from an attorney who will help guide you every step of the way.