For many parents, the prospect of navigating a child custody battle is the most daunting part of any divorce. Custody battles and their outcomes can have a drastic impact on parent-child relationships and the family dynamic post-divorce.
At Simon Law Group, PLLC, we understand just how deeply child custody battles can affect parents and children. Today, we're giving you our best tips for navigating your custody battle in court. If you're already moving past your divorce, you may also be interested in this blog we wrote about co-parenting tips.
Put Your Best Foot Forward with the Court and Your Soon-to-Be-Ex
As a rule, courts generally favor whichever party makes the judge's life easier. If you show a willingness to compromise with your partner and make the child custody battle as peaceful as possible, the court will take notice.
This is especially important in custody cases, where many courts see a parent's in-court behavior as a reflection of their parenting style. If a parent gets easily angered in court or throws temper tantrums, the judge will probably assume that behavior extends into their home life and how they treat their children.
Similarly, avoid disparaging your ex in court wherever possible. Creating a tense environment between you and your partner might make your child feel torn between you, or create a "good cop, bad cop" parenting dynamic—and the court won't look kindly on either.
Of course, that doesn't mean you can't be combative. It's perfectly reasonable to fight for things you don't feel like you can reasonably compromise on, like an equitable timeshare. But in general, try to be as gracious as you can towards your ex and the court. Work with your lawyer to devise a strategy for what you are and aren't willing to compromise on.
Know that the Court Doesn't Know You (AKA, Evidence Is Important)
The court isn't there to see you going to all of your kid's soccer games. The judge doesn't know how you help your child make failures into healthy learning experiences. All the court knows about your parenting style and what kind of custody arrangement you "deserve" is the evidence you can bring into the courtroom.
Work with your lawyer to gather evidence of your strengths as a parent and build a strong custody case. That might include references from individuals who know your child well, like coaches or teachers, and photos or other forms of documentation you have.
Additionally, if you believe your soon-to-be-ex genuinely represents a danger to your children, gather documentation and evidence to support that allegation. The more information you have, the more likely you are to get a custody judgment that protects your child's safety.
For many parents, adjusting to the "performative" nature of custody battles is the hardest part of the process. You need to show the court what kind of relationship you have with your child, and how much they mean to you—and you can't always rely on your speaking skills to do the trick.
Don't Be Afraid to Request an In-Home Custody Evaluation
One of the easiest ways to show the court your parenting style is by requesting an in-home custody evaluation, in which a neutral, third-party evaluator visits your home and assesses your parenting style.
An in-home custody evaluation indicates your confidence as a parent to the court, and it can be a great tool to bolster your case.
Remember—the Court Isn't Your Enemy
Courts have one primary objective in custody cases: Ensure that the children maintain the best quality of life possible post-divorce.
The court wants what's best for your children, and so do you. While certain judges may have biases, you should never go into a custody case thinking of the court as your enemy. Work with the court as openly and honestly as you can, and your efforts are more likely than not to bear fruit.
Having an experienced child custody lawyer at your side can help you get the judgment you deserve in your child custody case.
To arrange a consultation with a veteran child custody attorney who will handle your case with care and compassion, contact us online or via phone at (631) 237-9525.