No matter which way you slice it, divorce is hard. There is rarely a circumstance or situation where divorce comes without its difficultieseither financially, emotionally or mentally. The situation grows even grimmer when minor children are involved in the process. It’s difficult enough to divide assets and separate what once were the inner workings of an intimate life. But to also be faced with dividing time with children can become an entire battle of its own.

When a couple cannot come to an agreement on visitation or custody, a third partya family law judgewill make the decision for them. Unfortunately the judge will not be aware of the facts of the case nor all the history of your family dynamic outside of what they hear and see from your attorney and from you.  

So here are some important tips that will help you demonstrate your qualifications to be the primary caretaker / custodian to the judge.

  1. Show up on time and dress appropriately

Nothing says irresponsible like showing up to meetings, mediations and especially court dates late and disheveled. Family law judges are quick to notice this, and while it is not the primary factor taken into account when making a decision, attention to these details help show that you are fit to parent and should have custody of your children.

We recommend to be at least 10-15 minutes early for court dates, especially when the judge will be present, and plan for parking and paying the parking meter (bring enough change to last for at least a couple hours of parking).

Wear business casual clothes that are not torn or stained. Make sure you’ve showered and groomed your hair and nails. If the children are with you, ensuring the same for them will further prove you’re capable of taking good care of them.

2. Stay off of social media

Some find this to be difficult, given the propensity for people to divulge and unload their personal affairs on social media. However for the sake of winning custody of your children, keep any venting about your spouse, their attorney, or the judge off of all social media platforms.

Rest assured that the other side will use your social media posts against you. All it takes is photos from one drunken night, or a questionable status update, or foul language, to make a better case in court for your ex.

Remember…Social media is definitely social, but it is certainly not private. Protect your kids and your right to parent them by staying away during this time.  

3. Don’t get arrested

Obviously?  Maybe not. One of the fastest ways you can lose credibility as a fit parent is by getting arrested during the pendency of a custody dispute. Any type of arrest, but especially an arrest for violence, drugs or alcohol (DUI/DWI), will all but discount you from any type of unsupervised visitation with the children, let alone primary custody. And if any minors happen to be with you at the time of arrest, you can certainly kiss chances of custody goodbye.

There isn’t an easier way for an ex to prove that they’re a more fit parent than by showing the judge that you’ve been arrested. Regardless of whether you’re convicted or not, an arrest is all it could take to lose the custody battle.

4. Be reasonable and open to communicate

Choose to be reasonable and open to in your communications with your ex, their attorney, and the judge. Answer text messages, phone calls and emails in a timely manner. Use respectful and appropriate language. Even though emotions are running high, do your best to not allow your feelings to speak for you.

As a parent, you have rights. But if you’re willing to co-parent sensibly, you can drastically increase your chances of winning the custody battle.

5. Obey any and all judges orders

Oftentimes, family law judges issue temporary custody orders that divide the time between the parents. If you violate any part of these orders (e.g. failing to return the children on the ordered date and time, removing them from the state without permission, etc.) these actions may have detrimental effects.

Be absolutely sure that you understand and can abide by any orders the judge sets in place. If you can show the court that you can follow orders (even ones you feel are unfair), this can bode well for you when the judge is set to make his final decisions.

At the end of the day, and by the end of the custody battle, you want to prove yourself to be the one who is open to co-parenting responsibly and reasonably. Our highly rated and nationally recognized family law attorneys at Henry + Dow can help you secure your role as the most fit parent in your battle for custody of your children. Call us today with any questions you have to get the process started, and ensure that your children’s future is secure.

For more information regarding winning the custody battle, click here.