In the past, courts have generally tended to rule in favor of the mother in child custody cases. This precedent has transferred the burden of proof more heavily to the father, to prove that allowing them custody is in the child’s best interest. However, this does not mean there is no hope for a father to gain custody of their child.
Child custody cases are commonly referred to as custody battles, because they will be just that, a battle. If both parties feel they should have custody of the child (or children), then it can be a difficult path to determine what is in the best interest of the child.
As a father, consider the following tips to help improve your chances of gaining custody.
1. Build a Strong Relationship with your Child
If there is already a strong, meaningful relationship between the father and the child, this is the most basic and impactful truth for the court. Taking a child away from a dedicated father is not what the courts intend to do.
A father that seeks to gain custody of a child should strive to remain a part of the child’s life, regardless of the circumstances; this can include:
- Call the child frequently
- Check-in with the mother on the child’s well-being
- Attend school activities with the child and meet their teachers
- Offer assistance if the mother expresses concerns or needs regarding the child
2. Have a Plan
Simply showing up to court and arguing that you deserve custody will not suffice for a judge. If a judge is considering awarding a father custody, they will want to see that the father has a plan for caring for the child on their own. Make sure that you have considered all of the child’s needs and have a knowledgeable response to each question the judge has about the plans. Even plans, like which pediatric dentist or doctor the child will visit when they are under your care can be extremely valuable. Plans can include:
- Financial support
- Medical Insurance
- After-school activities
- Pediatric doctor/dentist
- Rides to school
- A bed for the child
3. Prepare for the Child to be in your Home
Telling the judge about your plans for the child will not be enough. The judge will want to know that you have put this plan into action. Begin by preparing a space for the child I your home. Having a bedroom set-up for them will show the court your willingness and commitment to taking care of the child in your home.
If it is a young child, baby-proofing the home can be a good show of effort to make the home conducive for a child. Any steps you can take to prove your dedication to upholding the custody agreement as best you can, the better your chances for receiving some custody of the child.
4. Maintain Accurate and Thorough Records
Having written proof of all interactions relating to the child will be extremely helpful in court. Maintaining records of all the following is very important in a custody case:
- Visitation (dates, times, notes, conflicts)
- Phone Calls
- Child Support Payments
- Extra Monetary support (any time you provide additional funds for the child in excess of your court ordered child support payment)
- Activities you attend for or with the child
- Change in circumstances
- Texts/Emails with the mother
In court you will need to prove your involvement in the child’s life, keeping accurate and detailed notes throughout the process will allow a father to easily show the courts exactly how they have been involved.
5. Pay Child Support
A court ordered child support payment is a requirement. Any missed, or late payments can and will be used against you in court. Disobeying a court order is never advisable. Unwillingness to pay child support does not cast the father in a good light in the court’s eyes. Try to make payments to the best of your abilities and keep records of the payments and correspondence with the mother. Ensuring that your payments are made in a timely manner each month can help a father to gain custody of their child.
6. Be Informed
Look into the family laws in your state and determine which ones apply to your situation. The court is willing to help, if you have the proper grounds to ask them to do so.
Legal statutes can be difficult to understand, if you are struggling to understand them or don’t know which step you need to take, ask for help. This can be from a friend or family member that has gone through this process, or with an attorney. Many people try to avoid the need for an attorney to cut costs, but can end up losing a custody battle they should have won. It can be helpful to at least do an initial consultation with an attorney to get their opinions on your case and hear how they would respond. Even if you do not hire the attorney, they can provide valuable insight and guidance in the consultation.
7. Be Respectful
This applies both in and out of court. Being on good behavior in front of the judge will not be enough to prove them that a father deserves custody. In many custody cases, personal statements are taken from close family members and friends to attest to the character and parenting abilities of the mother and father in question. This means it is very important that you maintain a respectful and amicable relationship with the mother and child.
8. Try to Come to an Agreement with the Mother
Coming to a custody agreement outside of court will be the quickest and least costly option. It is recommended to attempt mediation to resolve the custody issues to avoid the costs and delays related to court cases.
In addition to saving time and money, coming to an agreement outside of court will allow the parents to maintain control of the situation. Once the custody case is taken to court, the outcome is in the hands of the judge. At this point the parents lose the power to make the decision and must abide by the judge’s ruling.
9. Be Honest
This tip can be applied many ways, and each is equally important. Be honest with yourself, your child’s mother, your child(ren), and the judge.
Being honest with yourself is an important first step. Entering into a situation with unrealistic goals will only set you up for failure. After completing the research, logically and realistically determine what is the best outcome for yourself and the child.
Be honest with the mother of your child, because she can use any lies you tell her, in court, and seriously damage your chances of gaining custody.
It is a common tactic for parents to “trash talk” the other parent to their children during a custody case. Not only is this detrimental for the child, but can hurt your case as well. Many parents end up exaggerating or telling the kids lies about the other parent, and these lies can be brought up in court and further hurt your case for custody.
10. Consider your Child First
Custody battles can quickly turn into one parent against the other in a fight for power. It is helpful to keep in mind that the purpose of the custody case is to help provide the best living situation for your child. Pride and egos will need to be set aside in order to fully consider the situation that is best for the child. It is not about winning; it is about ensuring that your child is well cared for and living in a positive environment.
Child custody can be a very trying and burdensome process. Keep everything in perspective and remember your child comes first, always.
If you are looking for assistance in understanding the laws that govern your case or about specific details pertaining to your case, please contact the JacksonWhite family law team at: 1.800.243.1160 to schedule your consultation today.