You don’t have control over everything in a custody case. In fact, it probably feels like the vast majority of it is completely out of your control. The most important thing you can do, however, is be a great parent. It’s arguably the biggest aspect of your custody case.
Obviously, no one wants to be a bad parent. But during the tense and emotional process of determining (or fighting for) custody, it’s easy to lose track of good parenting. On top of that, you might be going through a messy divorce at the same time, which increases the stress.
So why is being a great parent so important? It matters to your kids, of course, but it also matters to the judge. The judge will award custody based on the best interests of the child or children. You need to show the court that you are always acting in their best interest.
If one parent is far more involved in school, homework, and extracurriculars, they’re going to have an advantage. Go to conferences or other meetings with your child’s teacher. Take them to the doctor and to soccer practice. Be as involved as you can. And make sure you really know your child.
Show that you are focused on your kid’s well being, including their physical and mental health. Dependability is also important. An organized household with rules and schedules looks better than one without. It can be tempting to spoil your kids to gain their preference, but you should focus on impressing the court. A child’s wishes might be taken into account if they are old enough and the court agrees, but ultimately, children do not get to choose which parent to live with.
In addition to being a great parent, avoid fighting with the other parent and exposing your kids to unnecessary drama. Don’t try to turn your child against the other parent. Think about everything you write or say to your spouse, because it might be brought up in court. The same goes for what you post on social media. You want to show that court that you are level headed and responsible. Lying is common in custody battles. Try to deal with it through your lawyer rather than losing your temper.
There is no sure way to win, but these things will help. And to be clear, even if you’re the best parent ever, it doesn’t mean you’ll get sole custody. The prevailing wisdom is that children should have a relationship with both parents. But in most cases, the kids spend more time with one parent or the other. If your goal is to have them living in your home much of the time, you’ll need to make a good case that it’s the best place for them to be.
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