Will he tell the judge that I used to smoke pot? Disclosing bad acts in custody cases

Posted on Jan 7, 2013 by Katie Carter

“When we were together, sometimes we used to smoke pot. Do you think he’ll tell the judge?”

In a word, yes. When you’re in the middle of a custody battle, no secrets that you used to share with your child’s father are sacred. If he knows something about you that you’d REALLY rather he didn’t tell the judge, you should start to prepare yourself for the fact that he will tell everyone who will listen to him.

Before you start to consider becoming a nun in a desperate attempt to outweigh all of the bad evidence he has to present to the court to show all the ways in which you are an unfit mother, remember that you have dirt on him, too. If “we” used to smoke pot together, that means that he was smoking, too. So, really, that little piece of evidence doesn’t reflect poorly on you alone; it reflects poorly on both of you.

How, when, and if you’ll reveal these secrets about your husband is all part of your trial strategy. You’ll discuss this plan with your attorney as you move forward with your custody case. Still, you should accept that he probably WILL pull out all the dirt he can on you. Will this tactic be effective? Maybe. Some judges take a hard-line stance about drug use, and others adopt a “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” attitude. Read your judge to determine whether it’s better to disclose the litany of inappropriate things he has done or whether you’re better off just arguing the real point of the case—what custodial arrangement is in the best interests of the child. In most cases, the judge will be impressed, not by terrible negative evidence about the unfitness of the parents, but by an analysis that takes into account the child custody factors and gives reasons for why what you’re asking for really is in the child’s best interests.

Of course, if there is an opportunity to disclose your bad acts, you should probably do so (with the advice of your attorney, of course). It’s always, always better to be honest with the court, rather than have something you should have disclosed come up embarrassingly after you had a chance to confess to the court ahead of time. Honesty, in this case, really is the best policy. You don’t want the judge to think you’re a pothead and a liar to boot.

In a custody case, it’s all about managing perceptions. Sometimes it’s best to own up to your mistakes, demonstrate to the judge how you have changed your ways, and focus on what is in the best interests of the child in the here and now. Remember that a custody trial is not a forum in which the parent who bashes the other parent the most wins—in fact, this tactic can prove costly. A custody trial is an opportunity to make an argument about what custody and visitation arrangement is in the best interests of the child, and how you plan to put this plan into action.