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10 Tips for Winning at Custody
By: Jean Mahserjian
Winning at Custody is one of the most difficult issues parents confront in divorce. In many cases, both parents want custody and are willing to spend whatever it takes to win. Custody is all about what is best for the children - and that involves proving that you are the best parent - i.e. that the other parent is not as good a parent as you and/or that the other parent is just simply a bad parent.
My recommended tips for winning at custody are:
1. If you are not involved in your children's lives now, you are not getting custody from a judge. If you are a working parent who lets your spouse handle all of the details of parenting, you are not prepared to win at custody. You must either change your objectives or change your parenting. If you really want custody, get involved now - in all aspects of your children's lives. Get involved in your children's schooling. Attend their extra curricular events. Take them to the doctor and dentist. Get to know what professionals your children see and be involved with them?
2. Make sure that you are not exposing your children to unsafe or unhealthy environments when they are with you. Are you involved in another relationship? Has there been more than one? Be very careful about exposing your children to your companion(s). Many judges, professionals, and other parents object to the children being subjected to other relationships too early in that process. More important, if you really want to win at custody, it should be because you want to spend time with your children parenting them. Spending time with someone else when you have the children is a recipe for losing at custody in court.
3. Do you put down your children's other parent when the children are with you - either consciously or subconsciously? If you do, stop. One sure way to lose at custody is to hurt the children's relationship with the other parent. A judge will consider whether a parent promotes or prevents the other parent's access to and relationship with the children when seeking custody.
4. Winning at custody requires that you keep a calendar for everything. You need to be able to look back and remember details when it comes time to litigage custody. If you do not know when you had the children, what events you attended, where they were or you were or allof the times your spouse was not timely for a pick up or drop off, you will only hurt your own case. You can keep track on your own calendar, with your own journal, or with a professionally managed calendaring system. We do provide access to a professional calendaring system for custody cases on our web site at http://www.millenniumdivorce.com/custody-planner.asp.
5. Be on time...Be on time....Be on time. Few issues cause as much conflict as a parent who is persistently late in picking up or dropping off children. It irks the judges, it creates arguments with your ex or soon to be ex, and it stresses out the children. So, Be on time.
6. Be flexible. If the other parent wants to switch weekends or weekdays, do it if you can manage your schedule. When the time comes to tell the judge why you should have custody, you can tell the judge that you are the parent who makes sure that the schedule works. In a close case, this issue makes a difference.
7. Do not involve your children in the issues that are pending in court or with attorneys. Courts generally are very opposed to the children knowing the details of what are essentially adult issues. Children should be told that both parents love them and want to see them - that's it. The children may see a psychologist and/or an attorney or other professional if the court directs that. The children can talk to those people about your case - you should not be giving them the details, especially if giving the details involves denigrating the other parent.
8. Winning at custody requires considering one other very important factor: where do the children want to live. It is not a good idea to coach your children on this issue. They will have an opportunity to tell what they want to either the court, their attorney or a psychologist. However, it is a good idea to know what they want. If they want to live with their other parent, you should not spend all of your time and money pursuing custody, unless you believe that it is unsafe or inappopriate for the children to live with that parent.
9. You do have to be willing to show why your children's other parent should not have custody. So, you need to keep track of whether that parent is on time, involved, and flexible with the schedule. If that parent has any issues that affect custody, such as a history of mental health issues which impact his or her ability to care for the children or alcohol or drug addictions, you need to let the court know. Other issues that can and do affect custody determinations include the number and frequency of romantic relationships and the epxosure of the children to those relationship, the proper supervision of the children, and ensuring that the children attend school and see professionals such as a doctor and dentist when necessary.
10. Above all else, hire a good attorney and be open and honest with your attorney. Listen to your attorney, not some friend or relative who is sure about what you should do because they had a friend or a relative who got a better deal. If you are paying your attorney, listen to what he or she has to say.
About the Author
Jean Mahserjian is an attorney and the author of numerous websites and books devoted to helping consumers through the process of divorce. To download free excerpts from her divorce and custody books, visit: http://www.millenniumdivorce.com