How to Win a Child Custody Fight

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How to Win a Child Custody Fight
How to Win a Child Custody Fight

A fight for custody of a child is not ideal. On the contrary, it would be better if you and the other parent reached an agreement on custody and saved everyone of the emotional stress that this process entails. However, it is not always possible to reach an agreement. If this is the case, you must prepare for the fight. Understand what factors the judge will consider when deciding on custody and gather evidence to help you build your case. Keep in mind that child custody struggles don't always involve parents. For example, it could be grandparents who are struggling to get it. Whatever the case, the process is generally the same.

Note: this information may vary depending on the country where you live.


Part 1 of 4: Analyze your situation

Win a Custody Battle Step 1
Win a Custody Battle Step 1

Step 1. Determine where you are in the case

This article assumes that you have already submitted your custody request and that you have attended a court-ordered mediation process. If you have not, you should not assume that you are in a "custody fight" process. However, you still have time to resolve this issue with the other parent. You can write a parenting plan and file it with the court.

  • Chances are, you or the other parent have already filed a custody petition in court. They have probably gone through a mediation process and have not reached an agreement.
  • If none of these options apply to your situation, look for information on how to file a custody petition and how to prepare for the mediation process to get more information.
Win a Custody Battle Step 2
Win a Custody Battle Step 2

Step 2. Identify areas where there are disagreements

It may be a good idea to determine why the other parent wants to get into a custody fight. For example, you may want to reach a custody agreement that is fair to both parents, while the other parent only wants you to visit your child on weekends. Find out what their motives are. The following are the most common reasons:

  • One father has accused the other of abusing his son.
  • One father has accused the other of abandoning his son and not having established a bond with him.
  • One parent has accused the other of being a drug addict or alcoholic and therefore represents a danger to their child.
  • Parents live far from each other and sharing custody equally is unrealistic. Therefore, the child must spend most of the school year with one of his parents.
Win a Custody Battle Step 3
Win a Custody Battle Step 3

Step 3. Understand how a judge decides about custody

A judge will determine custody by considering what is best for the child. As part of this analysis, the judge will need to consider a variety of factors, and not all factors will apply to your case. However, if the opposite happens, then you must argue how these factors favor you. The most common factors include the following:

  • the personality and ability of the father to raise a child
  • the father's relationship with his son
  • the employment status of each parent
  • the mental and physical health of each parent
  • the reason the father wants custody
  • the possibility that the father is willing to foster a good relationship between his son and the other parent
  • the parent the child wishes to live with (if he is old enough to decide about it)
  • how a move might affect the child
Win a Custody Battle Step 4
Win a Custody Battle Step 4

Step 4. Hire an attorney

The fight for the custody of a child is very important. Not only do you want to win, but it is also very difficult to change it later once the judge establishes the terms of custody. For these reasons, you should hire an attorney to represent you.

  • You can get a referral from a family law attorney by contacting your local or state bar association.
  • Call the attorney and make an appointment to consult about it. Ask the lawyer if he or she is in the business of solving custody issues. Not all family law attorneys do this, so it's a good idea to seek out a specialist.
  • Also ask about the price. Attorneys generally charge by the hour. If you don't have enough money, then ask the lawyer if they offer “unbundled” legal services, where you only pay them to take care of certain tasks.
Win a Custody Battle Step 5
Win a Custody Battle Step 5

Step 5. Talk to the attorney about what else to prove

When both parents clash over an initial custody decision, the judge considers only what is best for the child. However, the judge may take into account other aspects, depending on your situation:

  • If you are trying to change custody: There may already be an initial custody decision for your child. If you try to modify it, you must prove that there has been a significant change since the initial decision was made. Generally, this means that you must show that the other parent was sent to jail, has developed a drug addiction, or has moved far away.
  • If you are not the other parent: You may be a grandparent, another relative, or a foster parent. Generally, if you are trying to obtain custody, you must show that the biological parents are unfit to care for their child or that they have abandoned the child.

Part 2 of 4: Obtain Helpful Evidence

Win a Custody Battle Step 6
Win a Custody Battle Step 6

Step 1. Gather evidence that you are a good parent

Basically you have to show the judge that you are a good parent and that you have a strong relationship with your child. Although you can testify about it in court, the judge will not necessarily accept your testimony. Instead, you will need to have the following evidence:

  • Photographs: Take lots of pictures of the time you spend with your child. These will show that you are an important part of their life.
  • Testimonials from neighbors or childcare workers: These people can testify that they have seen you with your child and that you have a good relationship with him.
  • Other people's testimonials: Anyone can testify that they have seen you interact with your child. However, it is better if they are neutral people, such as your neighbors, than if they were your partner, since the judge may assume that this person is not impartial.
  • Proof that you take care of your child's special needs: If your child has a disability or other special needs, you should document the fact that you provide the necessary care. Present the receipts that evidence the payment of your therapy, wheelchair, etc. Also, document the fact that you take your child to his medical appointments.
Win a Custody Battle Step 7
Win a Custody Battle Step 7

Step 2. Assess your weaknesses as a parent

Because you are in a custody fight, the other parent has likely accused you of being a terrible person. Indeed, you should expect him or her to have detailed notes about your misbehavior and share them with the judge. Therefore, you must honestly self-assess. Perhaps there is a lot of truth in what the other parent says about you.

  • Do you have drug or alcohol problems, or have you had them in the past? For example, have you ever been arrested for driving under the influence or has someone called the police to accuse you of doing so?
  • Do you have trouble controlling your anger? Has anyone ever called the police to accuse you of having such problems? Has the other parent filed a restraining order against you for past domestic violence events?
  • Have you not made an effort to visit your son? You may be very busy traveling or working. However, you can expect the other parent to complain a lot because you never spend time with your child.
  • Never have money or a job? Do you move often because you can't afford a stable place to live?
Win a Custody Battle Step 8
Win a Custody Battle Step 8

Step 3. Address your weaknesses

You can minimize your weaknesses by showing the judge that you take them seriously and that you are trying to improve as a person. Consequently, you should do the following:

  • Get treatment for any addiction, whether to drugs or alcohol. You will be able to access a treatment program by talking to your doctor.
  • Address any mental problems you may have. Attend a counseling or therapy service and obtain the necessary medications for your condition.
  • Take an anger management class. If you find it very difficult to control your emotions, then you should complete an anger management class to help you manage them better. Don't forget to keep the certificate of completion.
  • For your finances in order. A judge is unlikely to award custody of a child to a parent simply because they have more money. However, you must show that you can provide for your child, which means that you can meet his needs. If necessary, pay off your debts and look for a job.
Win a Custody Battle Step 9
Win a Custody Battle Step 9

Step 4. Gather evidence that you can use against the other parent

Make sure to point out why living with the other parent would not be in your child's best interest. Check the factors the judge will consider and try to gather evidence for each of them. For example, consider the following:

  • If the other parent has a drug or alcohol problem, be sure to tell your attorney, as he or she may be able to get a copy of your medical record.
  • When the other parent is abusive or extremely disciplined, you can use that information against him or her. Look for witnesses who saw him slap or hit the child.
  • If the other parent has a criminal history, tell your attorney, as he or she will be able to access those records.
  • If your child rarely sees the other parent, document all the days that he or she breaches his or her obligation to visit. Write down important events (such as birthdays or weekend visits) that the other parent does not attend.
  • If the other parent has a new partner, you should do a thorough background check on this person, such as looking to see if they have been to jail.
  • Remember to explore social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.). If you can find a photo of the other drunk parent at a party, print or download it.
Win a Custody Battle Step 10
Win a Custody Battle Step 10

Step 5. Request information in the “evidence exhibition”

As part of a contentious custody case, you can request information or documents from the other parent. This process is known as "exhibiting." For example, you may want to use the following techniques in this part of the process:

  • Request for documents: Your attorney may request copies of the documents, if they are relevant.
  • Interrogatories - These consist of written questions that the other parent must answer under oath.
  • Statements: If you believe that a witness has relevant information, your attorney may ask him to give a "statement." For example, you may want to ask one of your child's teachers for a statement to ask if they have seen the other parent scold or hit the child.

Part 3 of 4: Behaving yourself in the best possible way

Win a Custody Battle Step 11
Win a Custody Battle Step 11

Step 1. Stay in constant contact with your child

You may no longer live in the same place as him. However, while you wait for the hearing date, you should stay in regular contact with him. Try to visit it as often as possible.

  • Write down in detail all the contacts you make with him. For example, you should have a journal where you write down the dates and times you visited or called.
  • If you are going to be absent for work, then you should write that down as well. You must have a good reason for not seeing your child regularly.
Win a Custody Battle Step 12
Win a Custody Battle Step 12

Step 2. Keep your home safe

You don't want your child to be injured when he comes to visit you. You will also want to show the judge that your home is safe. Make sure you address any obvious hazards, such as loose steps or exposed wires. Similarly, make sure your home is clean and tidy.

  • You should also keep dangerous products out of your child's reach. Lock up any firearms or ammunition and keep chemicals or prescription drugs stored in cabinets.
  • As part of the fight for custody of your child, the judge may order that you undergo a custody evaluation. The social worker in charge of such an evaluation may visit your home, so you should address any issues you have quickly.
Win a Custody Battle Step 13
Win a Custody Battle Step 13

Step 3. Avoid showing your anger

To achieve this, imagine that the judge is standing next to you at all times. If you show your anger, you can expect the other parent to notify the judge. For this reason, you should always try to control yourself.

  • This could be very difficult, particularly if your separation was emotionally painful. However, try to come up with strategies to minimize your contact with the other parent.
  • For example, if you must visit your child, agree to pick him up from school and drop him off again. This way, you can avoid seeing the other parent.
Win a Custody Battle Step 14
Win a Custody Battle Step 14

Step 4. Don't badmouth the other parent to your child

The judges want the children to have a good relationship with both parents. For this reason, you will not receive their approval if you try to turn your child against the other parent, so you should avoid saying negative things against him or her.

  • If your child says something about the other parent, listen quietly. You are not required to respond to these comments.
  • Also, don't try to keep your child away from the other parent. If your child lives with you, make all necessary arrangements for visits on time. The judge will not be pleased if you make it difficult for the other parent to see their child.
Win a Custody Battle Step 15
Win a Custody Battle Step 15

Step 5. Be careful what you say to your child

Your child will most likely tell the other parent everything he hears from you. For this reason, it is best not to tell him that you lost your job or that your new partner has just been arrested.

Indeed, it is a good idea to limit your child's contact with your new partner. There is no reason to involve this person in a custody fight

Win a Custody Battle Step 16
Win a Custody Battle Step 16

Step 6. Listen to your lawyer

Your attorney wants the best for you. Consequently, you should always listen to what he has to say. If your attorney recommends you do something, you should ask questions if you don't understand why. Also, you should always try to follow their recommendations.

Part 4 of 4: Going to Court

Win a Custody Battle Step 17
Win a Custody Battle Step 17

Step 1. Call your witnesses

A subpoena is a legal order to go to court to testify on a certain date. It's a good idea to send these subpoenas to all of your witnesses. If the witness does not appear, the judge may order that he be arrested and brought before the court.

  • Your attorney can handle the subpoenas. If you are your own representative, you can usually get these subpoenas from the clerk of court.
  • Remember to send the subpoenas well in advance. Don't wait to send them the day before the contentious hearing. Generally, you should do it a couple of weeks in advance, although that number of days depends on the court.
Win a Custody Battle Step 18
Win a Custody Battle Step 18

Step 2. Prepare the documents as attachments

Any document that you incorporate must be added as an annex. You will most likely need to give the other parent a copy of all attachments before the contentious hearing. You can convert a document into an attachment by placing a sticker with that indication in one corner.

If you want to attach photos, put the decal on the back

Win a Custody Battle Step 19
Win a Custody Battle Step 19

Step 3. Dress appropriately

Unfortunately, people assume they know you based on your appearance. For this reason, you should always dress conservatively when you go to court. You do not need to wear a suit. Indeed, you should wear clothes that you feel comfortable in and that fit you well.

Find information on how to dress for a court hearing

Win a Custody Battle Step 20
Win a Custody Battle Step 20

Step 4. Let your attorney handle the hearing

He or she will be responsible for presenting witnesses and cross-examining the other parent's witnesses. Each contentious custody hearing is a little different, but generally they follow the same format:

  • Each attorney files an opening statement before the judge, in which the evidence is presented.
  • The person who filed the custody petition will present the evidence first. The other parent's attorney will then cross-examine the witnesses.
  • The second parent will present their case. The attorney for the parent who filed the custody petition will then be allowed to cross-examine those witnesses.
  • Each attorney will present their argument to the judge as to why it is in the best interests of the child to live with their client.
Win a Custody Battle Step 21
Win a Custody Battle Step 21

Step 5. Testify on your behalf

Perhaps your first task is to give your testimony. You must prepare for this moment with your lawyer. It is a good idea to practice and prepare for cross-examination by the other party's attorney. When you are in the witness box, remember the following tips:

  • Listen carefully to the question asked. If you can't understand it, then say, "Sorry, I don't understand the question." Consequently, the lawyer will reformulate it.
  • Think before answering. You should never allow a lawyer to treat you badly or rush you to respond. On the contrary, take a little breath and think about your answer.
  • Do not offer more information than is requested. Answer only what has been asked.
  • Never assume something. If you don't know something, say, "I don't know."
  • Avoid arguing. Things can get emotional when the other parent cross-examines you and brings up uncomfortable topics. Always remember to breathe deeply, as the attorney will try to make you nervous.
Win a Custody Battle Step 22
Win a Custody Battle Step 22

Step 6. Receive the judge's decision

After all the evidence has been presented, the judge will issue an order at that time. However, if the case is complicated, the judge may use a counseling process and contact your attorney later to notify him of his decision.

No matter how unhappy you are, you shouldn't show anger. You never know, you might see the same judge again in a couple of years when you try to change the terms of custody

Win a Custody Battle Step 23
Win a Custody Battle Step 23

Step 7. Consider filing an appeal

If you are not satisfied with the outcome, speak with your attorney to determine whether or not you should file an appeal. In doing so, you will ask a higher court to review the trial records and determine if the judge made a serious mistake. If so, the court will reject the decision of said judge.

  • In general, filing an appeal is expensive. You will have to pay for the court reporter to prepare the trial transcripts. This could cost thousands of dollars.
  • If you want to file an appeal, act fast. Generally, you will be given 30 days (or less) to file your appeal notice with the trial court.

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