When determining child custody, judges in today’s court system place the best interests of the child above everything else. In the past, courts generally slanted custody outcomes toward mothers, but that is no longer the case.
The court will consider these factors, among others, in choosing custody:
- Physical and mental health of each parent
- Employment status/income status/living arrangements of each parent
- Parenting skills
- Ability to encourage a healthy bond with the ex-spouse and extended family
- Any evidence of abusive/neglectful behavior by a parent
- Impact of moving on the child
- Whether one parent wants to relocate
- Preference of the child
Once a judge sets the custody arrangement it is difficult to get it altered. So your best course of action is to hire a family law attorney, do your hearing preparation, and control your emotions and behavior.
Preparing For Your Child Custody Case
You want to demonstrate to the judge that you are a good parent with a solid bond with your child. You can do this in a variety of ways:
- Keep a journal: Write down all the significant things you do in maintaining an active role with your child. For example, do you volunteer at the school or afterschool activities?
- Take photos: Document your involvement and your child’s happiness in those moments.
- Lay out a specific parenting plan: Show the judge you have put thought into the future. A parenting plan should include how information will be shared between parents, how/when each parent spends time with the child, how decisions will be made (jointly or individually with consultation), and how other issues will be handled.
- Collect documentation: Gather any financial information, medical reports, court orders or records, or statements from witnesses. If your child has or develops special needs, such as therapy, be sure to show that you take the child and save the receipts.
- Witness list: Keep a list of anyone who could provide testimony about yourself, your spouse, your child and the relationships. People on this list could include neighbors, teachers, doctors, therapists and child care workers.
- Think of any neutral person who can testify that you have a strong bond with your child. Testimony from new boyfriends/girlfriends may come off as biased.
- Keep your home safe. Take any necessary steps to provide a secure environment for your child.
Control Your Behavior
You definitely do not want to give your spouse evidence to use against you in court. Your goal is show you can provide a safe and nurturing environment. To that end, here a few tips:
- Assess your weaknesses as a parent. If there are things your spouse can use against you, such as lack of employment, work as quickly as you can to address those items.
- Be careful on social media. For example, don’t post pictures of yourself under the influence.
- Don’t speak badly about your spouse to your children. You want to put forth a positive image, not one in which you appear hostile, aggressive or violent.
- Avoid arguments with your spouse. Remain as polite as possible with anyone connected to your case, including lawyers, courtroom staff and child care workers.
Collect Evidence About The Other Parent
Though you should be cordial in dealings with your spouse, it is still a good idea to document issues that show why you are the better parent.
- Let your attorney know if the other parent has drug or alcohol issues.
- Get witnesses or police records if there is a history of abuse or violence.
- Acquire criminal records if your spouse has been charged with any crimes.
- Keep tabs on your spouse’s social media for examples of being unfit to parent.
- If your spouse has a history of being absent, keep a journal noting the times he or she has disappointed your child.
Remember, put forth a positive image of yourself. Dress appropriately at all important meetings. And keep in contact with your attorney. Now you have the tools to win your child custody case.
Disclaimer: This website and blog contains general information about legal issues and developments in the law. The contents are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These materials are not intended as legal advice for any particular set of facts or circumstances. You should contact a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction for advice on specific legal issues.