How to Win a Child Custody Case - Hints from The Experts
Despite your best efforts, divorce happens. The National Center for Health Statistics reported that in 2016, there were 813,862 divorces in the US. While reasons vary, the fact remains that if children are involved, a difficult situation becomes even more complex. At such times, the first move a divorcing parent should make is to contact a child custody lawyer.
But what else should you be aware of as you prepare your case for the court? Here are some tips from divorced parents and experts.
- Show flexibility regarding working with your ex-partner.
A judge viewing your case will want to see that you are willing to work with your ex-partner for the good of your children. If you are too rigid? Or inflexible about complete custody, or visiting hours, without good reason? You might lose custody rights if your ex-partner takes a flexible stance. Show the court that you are willing to bend in some areas if that is what they deem best for your children.
- Minimize conflict with your ex.
Any moments of conflict with your ex that happen can now be used against you. This likely means keeping a brave face, and being civil to your ex, even when you want to shout. The place to vent is a therapist's couch. Not anywhere your children can overhear. Even if you think you are away from prying eyes, smartphones and other recording devices can catch what you think is a private interaction.
If you do not trust yourself to be civil to your ex, avoid meeting him or her in person. Arrange drop offs and picks ups through a family member, or wait in the car or in the house. If there is something that you need to communicate to your ex-spouse, use email, or a trusted third party. If all else fails, use a mediator.
- Use your visitation hours.
If you have been given visitation hours, or weekends with your children. Use them, without exception. Skipping these hours gives a poor impression and shows unfocused priorities. By the same token, avoid rescheduling with your children, or trying to move time with them around to better fit your schedule. These actions could make it seem to the court that you are trying to win sole custody just out of ill will. It might also give ammunition to your ex-partner that your children would be better off with them. Visit based on the agreed-upon schedule.
- Agree and follow-through with all court-mandated classes.
Has the court requested you see a therapist? Or take certain classes? Or improve the safety features in your home? Do so promptly. A delay in following through with court orders can show a lack of desire on your part. View the court orders as a chance to show your willingness to do whatever it takes to keep custody of your children. And then follow through on what they ask.
- Get familiar with child custody laws.
Getting an expert divorce attorney is a good first step. But knowing the laws of your state can help you know in advance what you will be facing. Your attorney, as good as he or she may be, is likely representing many clients. The more you know about your case, your rights, and how your rights fall within child custody laws, the more of a help you will be to your lawyer. How? By providing your lawyer with the kind of information and actions he or she needs to win your case.
- Pay attention to your appearance.
You may know deep in your bones that your children should be with you. Your children might even be very vocal about wanting to stay with you. But if you do not look like the better choice, it means little. To win your case, you need to show to the court that you are competent and involved in your children's care. Signs that might raise warning flags to the court include...
- being late for court appearances,
- having a slovenly appearance, and
- not adhering to proper courtroom etiquette.
As you do the above to prepare your case for the court, keep your child's feelings front and center. This is a traumatic time for your children. And hearing about the court case or court proceedings may frighten and destabilize your children even further. Try to behave in a way that you will be all right with once the dust settles.