Child custody is undoubtedly the most emotionally trying and difficult issue any parent will face during a divorce or separation. Most parents want only what is best for their children and, while most courts will agree that 50/50 parenting is what is best, there are some instances in which it would make sense for the child to live primarily with one parent. If you are in such a situation, you have a long, uphill battle ahead of you. However, with the guidance of a few tried-and-true tips and strategies, you can gain the upper hand in your custody battle.
Know What Factors the Courts Consider in Custody Cases
Many parents assume that the way to win the judge’s favor is to criticize the other parent. “He cheated,” “She never contributed to the family funds,” “She always prioritized work over the children’s extracurricular activities…” These claims have little to no bearing in family court and may even hurt a parent’s case, as they make the accusing parent seem petty.
It is important to remember that child custody hearings are about the child. The judge wants to have confidence that, whatever decision he or she makes, it is the one that is in the best interests of the child. Though the best interests standard is objective, the judge wants to see that the child’s physical, mental and emotional needs will be met. Therefore, you need to demonstrate that you can provide your child with a safe, positive and nurturing environment that is close to your child’s extended family, other parent, friends and school. The judge also wants to know that you will encourage a positive relationship between your child and your ex, hence the reason the blame-game will not do you any good.
Focus on Practical Issues
You want full custody, but you balance a full-time job with a part-time gig. Not only would sole custody not work with your schedule but also, it would in no way benefit the child, who would likely spend a majority of his or her days with a caretaker.
When you go to court for child custody, be practical in your requests. If you work an hour away from your child’s school, or if your new home is out of your child’s school district and away from his or her friends and extracurricular activities, do everything possible to change your circumstances. The judge expects divorce or separation to change your life, not your child’s.
Gather Evidence in Your Favor
Though you should not focus on what you feel your ex is doing wrong, you should focus on what you are doing right. Do not bring up the fact that your ex decided to continue to work nights and weekends. Instead, focus on how you got a new job with less hours so you can be there for your child more often. Bring up the fact that you downsized so you could afford your new lifestyle and be closer to your child’s school and friends.
Document Your Ex’s Bad Behavior
While you should not nit-pick every little wrong thing you ex does, you should keep track of persistently bad behavior. This includes frequently showing up late to pick up or cancelling on your child altogether. If you know your ex abuses drugs or alcohol, document this abuse when it interferes with your ex’s ability to parent. If your ex tries to alienate you by badmouthing you in front of your child, make note of this behavior. Little things like this can go a long way toward showing the judge that you are the more fit parent.
Invest in a Lawyer
No matter how solid of a case you think you have, you should not attempt to win custody on your own. An experienced child custody attorney in Albuquerque can help you understand your rights, explore your options and manage your expectations. Because an experienced attorney also understands the court system and how judges make decisions, he or she can also help you build a strong case designed to achieve the best possible outcome.
Your child custody battle will not be easy, but you can increase the odds that it will work out in your favor by taking the above advice to heart. For more tips and strategies you can use to your advantage, contact Roybal-Mack & Cordova, P.C. today.