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Debunking some child custody myths

Child custody agreements are often the most stressful and embattled portion of a divorce. It doesn't help when seemingly-well-meaning friends, colleagues and acquaintances share stories that may or may not be accurate. Custody laws vary by state, and of course, each case is different. You can't compare yours with anyone else's.

Certain custody myths persist despite the fact that they are just that - - myths -- and aren't true in Louisiana or anywhere else. The following are a few of these myths.

Often, estranged parents believe that if they have an amicable relationship, they don't need a set visitation schedule. That may work for a while, but you never know when things will change. One or both parents may remarry or move. Your amicable divorce may become less than amicable. If you prefer to play it by ear, fine, but it is always best to have a written agreement to fall back on if a dispute arises.

Many people believe that if a parent lapses on child support payments or does not pay the full amount, the other parent can refuse access to the children. Child support and child custody are two separate things. Likely, the court won't be happy with either parent in that case, and you're only hurting your children.

Women (and men) often make the mistaken assumption that mothers are always awarded primary custody unless she has some egregious problem. That may have been true decades ago, but no longer. While mothers more often get primary custody than fathers, more men are getting it. There are a number of factors that determine that decision, and laws are changing across the country to help level the playing field.

Even though it seems like everyone is on some sort of prescription anti-depressant, many parents believe that if they admit to that, it will hurt their custody chances. In reality, many courts actually see that as a sign that a parent has recognized the understandable emotional toll of a divorce and are getting the help they need. As long as a parent is not overmedicating and has no serious emotional issues affecting your ability to parent, don't assume it will be held against you.

Discuss your concerns with your attorney. He or she can help put your mind at ease and work with you to develop a strategy to get the custody arrangement you want and, more importantly, the one that's best for your children.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Five Custody Myths Separating Parents Need to Know" Carla Schiff Donnelly, Jun. 05, 2014

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