"How do I win custody of my child?" is a very common question asked by divorcing parents. However, there is no magic we can really do in court that determines which parent is going to 'win' custody of their child. There are many factors that go into a custody decision, but in this post I want to focus on co-parenting and how that can help you win custody of your child.
Studies continually show is that what is best for your child is co-parenting (unless of course there is an abusive situation, or the other parent is legitimately putting your child at risk). Children thrive when their parents have a cooperative relationship, and are negatively affected when their parents do not have a healthy relationship. Children whose parents have a high-conflict relationship are more likely to suffer from anxiety, aggressive behavior, and tend to not do as well as their peers at school.
Most judges know this, and it can affect custody decisions. Not surprisingly, parents who demonstrate co-parenting skills are more likely to win custody of their child if the other parent does not demonstrate good co-parenting skills. If both parents demonstrate effective co-parenting skills, well, that is the obvious best outcome. The parents can spend their hard-earned money on things other than a custody battle and their children will reap the benefits of their parent's cooperative relationship.
Let's talk about the top 5 things you can do to demonstrate effective co-parenting skills:
Be a good communicator. Allow free flowing communication between you and your ex about issues that affect your child. Whether it's a parent/teacher conference, doctor's appointments, or school or sports functions, make sure the other parent knows so they can participate. Being a good communicator also means listening, and allowing your ex to have input into the decisions that involve your child. Being a good communicator also means talking, not just emailing or texting. Emails and texts can be very detrimental to a child custody case, especially if they contain negative comments, barbs, and jabs toward the other parent. There is a great tool called Our Family Wizard that can help you in the communication process if you seem to be struggling to communicate effectively with your spouse - definitely check out tools such as this if you find yourself in that situation!
Don't sabotage your child's relationship with the other parent. Obviously this means don't criticize or say negative things to your child or to others in front of your child. Hurting your child's relationship with the other parent is NOT an effective way to win custody of your child. It can damage the quality of your relationship not only with your ex, but also with your child. The same goes for withholding visitation, or making it difficult for the other parent to see your child. Sometimes parents use these type of tactics as a result of personal pain they feel towards their ex, but it ends up doing just as much damage to you (or more) than it does to your ex.
Be dependable and accountable. It probably goes without saying that it's important to be on time when dropping off or picking up your child from the other parent. Also, make sure you adhere to the parenting plan. Flexibility is also favorably viewed by judges. If your ex needs to switch weekends or days, making every effort to accommodate these requests will not only please a judge, but will also likely have a positive effect on your relationship with your ex.
Don't put your child in the middle. Again, it probably goes without saying that you should not burden your child with the problems and issues that you have with your ex, nor should they know about details of your court case. Courts in general do not approve of children knowing the nitty gritty details of adult-oriented issues, and it is so unhealthy for your children. If the children are old enough to have input into who they would like to live with, obviously don't pressure them or try to convince them that they should live with you. The courts will take your child's opinion into consideration, but it is not the only factor that will determine who wins custody.
Be prepared. If there are legitimate reasons why you think your child should not live with the other parent, be prepared to show the judge why. Keep records of substance abuse, mental health issues, neglect, or exposure to unhealthy living environments or inappropriate relationships. It can also help to keep a calendar that shows when your spouse dropped them off late, changed plans at the last minute, etc.
If you get to the point where you will be facing a custody battle in court, it is extremely important that you have an experienced, knowledgeable family law attorney. If you have questions or need a consultation on your situation please don't hesitate to contact us at 714.969.9910.
Disclaimer – The materials contained in this blog have been prepared for informational purposes only. The information contained is general in nature, and may not apply to particular factual or legal circumstances. In any event, the materials do not constitute legal advice or opinions and should not be relied up on as such.