How to Win a Child Custody Case

In a child custody case, the court’s decision is based largely on what they see as “the best interest” of the child. As a parent, you will likely know and understand your child very well, and feel like your involvement will have a positive impact on his or her life. Your opinion, of course, is somewhat objective.  The court will not just take your word for it. And if the two parents, and sometimes other relatives, disagree about what is best that will complicate the decision even more. But “best interest” is a phrase the court takes very seriously, and even the best parents need to pay close attention to what this means in order to get the level of custody they want for their child or children. When parents are able to look beyond their own issues with one another, they can often approach the custody case with less animosity. Ultimately, the child or children benefits. Often it is hard to do independently, and mediation is necessary in order for the parents to get a grip on the bigger picture.

Many things are evaluated, but in the end what matters is

  • Your capability as a parent
  • The wishes and needs of the child or children,
  • The willingness of others to advocate for you as a parent

Getting Child Custody

The stronger the custody dispute, the harder you will need to work to present your post-divorce home as a place that is in the best interest of your child or children. Stability is near the top of the court’s priority list when custody decisions are made. That means that anyone who is looking to claim either full or partial custody of a child will be looked at closely. Some things that will be evaluated include

  • Mental and physical health
  • Maintenance of religious or cultural practices
  • The ability to provide a safe and stable home
  • The ability to effectively address any special needs a child might have
  • A willingness and ability to support the child or children’s relationship with their other parent as well as their extended family
  • The ability to acknowledge the value of the other parent in the child’s or children’s life, and avoid negative talk about them
  • The absence of any abusive relationship with drugs or alcohol
  • The ability to exercise reasonable discipline measures that would not be construed as physically, sexually, or emotionally abusive
  • The ability to provide for the child financially
  • The ability to keep the needs or the child/children above those of others, such as a new partner.
  • Having a strong support network of friends and family
  • The ability to communicate with the child or children and offer them the emotional support they need

The Wishes and Needs of the Child

To varying degrees, what the child wants matters too. How strongly the court will weight the child’s opinion will depend on the age, sex and maturity level of the child. The court will look at the nature of the child’s relationships within the home, including the parents and siblings, the extent in which they are involved in their school and the community.

An Intention to Relocate

When a parent, regardless of their level of custody intends to move to a different area, custody agreements can become more complicated. Relocation is often necessary. Relocating will not necessarily have a negative impact on your custody case. The United States Supreme Court recognizes that fit parents have the right to the care, custody, and control of their children, and the courts will make residential provisions based on best interest.

Proving Your Case

No one understands the relationship better between a parent and their child as that parent, but in order to present a positive image, it helps to have others on your side. Character witnesses can become an important part of a custody case. These can be family members, the child’s teachers, or neighbors. Collecting opinions with less bias, such as those from therapists or social workers can help too. In some cases, the court will assign  the child a guardian ad litem that have the specific purpose of advocating for the best interest of the child, and who works closely with the child in order to make their recommendation.

When trying to prove yourself, it is important to remain composed and rational. Badmouthing the other parent can only hurt you. If you have solid evidence that the other parent has been abusive or neglectful, present this to your lawyer, and let them present these issues to the court. It’s also vital that you are seeking the level of custody you are for the right reasons– in order to spend time with the child and enrich their life. You should not make it look as if you are motivated by a desire to pay less child support, or receive more child support from the other parent. While the best interest of the child is always the top priority, having a child custody lawyer that is willing to work hard for your best best interests can also make a big difference in the outcome of the case.

 

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