Recall February 2017 when the Atlanta Falcons played the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. Anyone who watched would remember how dismal things looked for New England. They were dismantled on all fronts, trailing 25 points. But as my grandpa likes to say “there are four quarters of football.” New England mounted a breath-taking comeback and won the game in overtime. The same sort of scenario can play out in a custody case. Just like a football game, custody cases are long and grueling. Typically, a contested case will take at least a year to make it to trial. This is especially true in Oklahoma County, where the family law dockets are very crowded. While you languish in the commotion of a custody case, you may very well feel like the New England Patriots. You came in with high hopes and the expectation that justice would be done. Now, it seems you’re so far down in the game, you can’t possible hope to climb your way back. Do not despair.
If you watched the 2017 Super Bowl, you’ll remember that the Patriots didn’t come back by scoring 4 touchdowns in a minute. It took time, patience and strategy. If you think you’re down in your case, or if you’re actually down, you will need a realistic plan and perseverance to get back in the game. Suppose you’re 5 months away from a custody trial. All you have is supervised visits based on false allegations raised at the temporary order hearing. To add insult to injury, your spouse won’t even allow the supervised visits. What do you do? Lots of clients in this situation want to go back to court and re-argue the temporary order hearing. However, if you don’t have any compelling, new evidence, this would probably be a mistake. Judges typically get annoyed when you bring the same arguments back to court and expect a difference result. If you annoy a judge, you’re more likely to stand out in the judge’s memory, and you will be a familiar, displeasing face when your trial-day comes. You need to build evidence other than your say-so which would prove the falsity of the allegations. You need to consistently and diplomatically insist that you receive your visits. If your spouse refuses, you can take it up with the judge asking for an order of enforcement with make-up time, or it may be wiser to just make your record of the incident and move on. Making a record and moving on is very difficult for some people. Maybe it was hard for Tom Brady to cede the field to the punt team on 4th and long rather than go for the improbable conversion. Sometimes, it really is better to live and fight another day.
Leo Tolstoy once said that patience and time are the most powerful warriors. Time gives you the backdrop for showing a consistent pattern. Your spouse didn’t just deny visits once, but several times. The argument that she is non-compliant with visitation is more reasonable. Consequently, you, as the compliant parent, become a better candidate for custody. The suggestion that you can’t handle the kids for extended time periods seems less credible because you’ve done it several times before you head to trial. Time and patience go hand-in-hand. Patience keeps you from getting stuck in the moment, controlling impulses that might jeopardize the end-goal. For example, without patience, you might go to your spouse’s house to yell and bang on the door demanding your visits. You might give-up prematurely when you could have had a better result. Patience helps you focus your efforts today in hopes of a successful future. Just like the Patriots clawed back into the game slowly but surely, you steadily fill your case with helpful examples of your parental capability and efforts at cooperation. You can’t hope for a 30 point touchdown because there’s no such thing. There’s no substitute for careful planning and hard work. A good plan, carefully executed, is very deadly weapon.