“How do I win custody?” is often the first question that we are asked by fathers in an initial consultation. This isn’t surprising; child custody can be a complicated topic rife with stress and frustration.
Understanding the information the court uses to make a decision on custody can ensure that dads are doing everything they can to preserve their relationship with their children.
Trying to completely exclude your wife from access to the children will work against you. The courts favor situations where both parents are proactively working to create a stable and healthy environment for the kids. The only way to truly “win” custody is when the best interest of the child is served.
If divorce is on your horizon, a little bit of planning can go a long way. In divorces where children are involved, it is essential to avoid making rash decisions or acting out of frustration or anger. In an effort to create peace, many men will take the path of least resistance. This often creates additional challenges through the custody process.
The months (and sometimes years) leading up to divorce will be considered as the precedent for custody and support. Making sure you are actively involved in your child’s daily routine before you file for divorce will be beneficial to your case.
If you have already filed for divorce, it is in your best interest to maintain as much contact with your children as possible. Dropping them off and picking them up from school, helping with homework, constructively communicating with their teachers and other caregivers are all ways you can continue to support your child through the divorce and demonstrate your involvement in the child’s life.
When determining custody, the courts will evaluate the consistency of parenting. It is important that being reliable is at the forefront of your interactions with your child. Missing scheduled visitations, appointments, and court dates will undermine your custody case.
Additionally, making consistent financial contributions is important even if they haven’t been court ordered. When making payments, never use cash. It is critical to have a paper trail that proves support has been paid—checks, money orders, etc. are more advisable than cash.
Your marriage might be over, but you will have to co-parent with your soon-to-be-ex wife for the rest of your life. Finding a way to work out a parenting plan that acknowledges the wants of both parties will give you an advantage.
Proactively trying to resolve your custody issues outside of the courtroom can save you money and increase the likelihood of getting more time with your children.
If you are unable to resolve your custody issues and you need to litigate the case, it is possible that the court will appoint an attorney to represent your children as well as additional experts like psychologists or counselors.
You will be responsible for the cost of this additional lawyer and experts. The court often relies heavily on these third-party opinions to reach a decision in your child custody case.
Working with your spouse to create a reasonable parenting plan will benefit you, even if your case ends up in front of a judge. Being willing to negotiate and cooperating to act in the best interest of the child is favored by the courts.
Cooperating with your spouse does not mean you agree to all of her wishes. In custody cases it is imperative that you pick your battles. Identifying the key points that you aren’t willing to compromise will help you and your attorney focus your efforts on the important elements while allowing you to negotiate on items that are less important.
Child custody cases present some of the most challenging and contentious issues in divorce. It is crucial to educate yourself on your rights and have a plan for navigating the custody process. If you have children and are facing divorce, speak with an experienced family law attorney. A good lawyer can be an invaluable asset and will advocate for your rights as well as help you survive the custody process with dignity.
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