In determining which parent of a dissolving marriage will have sole or primary custody of a child, the courts base their decision on one key factor: What is in the best interests of the child? Keeping this in mind will go a long way towards obtaining greater or sole custody of your child.
Specifically, this means:
- Know Your Child
Do all you can to know everything about your child. This includes their medical history, their schooling, their friends, extracurricular activities, etc. Try to be involved in as much of these areas as possible.
- Provide Stability
Divorce can be extremely stressful and even traumatic for children. That is why the courts look more kindly on those parents who can provide a sense of stability in their children’s lives. An individual seeking greater custody should avoid entering into new romantic or sexual relationships too quickly or having numerous such relationships over a short time period. The same holds true for jobs. While it is reasonable to expect that one may need to change jobs or that a new opportunity may present itself, too frequent changes can upset routines and thus further hurt the child. Ditto for living arrangements.
- Create a Safe, Clean and Appropriate Living Environment
Make sure your home is one that adequately suits the needs of your child or children. This does not mean that it has to be fancy. It does mean that it has to be safe, clean and have a bedroom situation that is appropriate for specific ages and genders. If you can situate your home in the child’s current school district, so much the better.
- Document The Time Spent with Your Child
Detail the time you spend with your child, what you do with them and the interests you pursue together. If your spouse engages in any particularly egregious activities or neglects basic parenting responsibilities, you should document these as well.
- Place Your Child’s Needs Above Your Own
This means keeping your ego or anger in check and showing the court that you are a mature and stable individual. Your child will usually benefit from a strong relationship with the other spouse. Facilitate that relationship. It’s an indication that you truly understand what the “best interests of the child” truly means. Similarly, avoid disparaging the other parent and involving children in your disputes.
- Hire an Experienced Attorney
Custody disputes are often quite complicated and messy. Advocating your position requires a cool head – one removed from the emotion of the moment. For these reasons, it is best that you consult with an attorney well-versed in matters of child custody.
While these guidelines by no means guarantee you will be awarded the custody situation you are seeking, they will go a long way towards having the courts view your parenting skills more favorably.