Being Smart About Child Custody
When a couple with young children reaches the difficult decision to divorce, many challenging discussions lie ahead. In most cases, however, the most emotional and contentious discussion will center around child custody. The couple may find a way to reach agreement on financial issues and division of assets, but when it comes to caring for their children, compromise often remains elusive.
After all, the person with primary custody will likely end up taking the lead in deciding key issues impacting the children, including where to live, which doctors to visit, public vs. private school, religious practices, vacations and more.
The family court is required to take the actions that are “in the best interests of the child.” If you’re determine to win primary custody of your children, what steps should you take that will put you in the best position to care for your children?
Hire a custody attorney. This is not a requirement, but why wouldn’t you want to have someone on your team who has been there before, who can advise you, calm you down when your spouse makes inflammatory remarks, prepare you for court and more.
Learn your state’s custody laws. Most state laws differ, so understanding what is expected of the person with primary custody makes a lot of sense.
Know your kids. Do you know who their primary care doctor is? Their favorite subject in school? The names of their teachers? Their favorite sports? The names of their best friends? If you want primary custody, you need to be able to show the judge how much you care.
Cooperate with your spouse. If you’re unable to conduct a civil conversation with your spouse, a judge will likely find it difficult to grant you primary custody, and especially not sole custody. Judges generally want to see maturity displayed in the parent who will spend the most time with the children.
Document behaviors. How are you and your spouse acting in the months leading to the divorce? Are the children misbehaving after spending time with your ex? Is one parent always abusing the visitation schedule? This should not be a “gotcha” document but a fair assessment to help the court determine which parent is best suited for primary custody.
Dress the part. Judges are human, and the parent that is dressed appropriately for court, arrives on time and displays a positive and caring attitude will be noticed.