Mother and child

How to Give Yourself the Best Chance of Winning Child Custody

By David Hammond

For parents considering divorce, the possibility of losing child custody is often the most distressing component. In fact, this issue frequently keeps individuals in an unhappy, or even abusive, marriage for years. Knowing that unless you and your spouse can agree on custody terms, the court will decide, perhaps mistakenly, what will be in the best interests of your offspring can delay divorce indefinitely. This article is designed to offer you advice that may give you an edge when it comes to winning child custody and freeing yourself from the bonds of a painful union.

The first step in giving yourself the advantage in this situation is finding a family law attorney with strength, skill, and in-depth knowledge of child custody laws in your state, like CDH Law, in Syracuse, New York. Our divorce attorneys have outstanding credentials and a track record of successful outcomes.

There Are Two Kinds of Child Custody

Legal custody, which is usually awarded jointly, refers to the power to make major decisions for the child, such as those involving education, religion, and medical care. Physical custody determines with whom the child will live. The latter is the type of custody parents are typically most concerned about during divorce negotiations and litigation. 

Though joint physical custody may seem most fair, it is often immensely difficult to arrange due to factors like the distance between the homes of the two parents and the location of the child’s school, friends, and other family members. There are also many situations in which the parent fighting for custody feels that the other parent is unfit or unable to provide a suitable home for the child. Whatever the circumstances of your upcoming divorce, having a savvy divorce attorney can make all the difference in providing you with the outcome you want.

Be Cordial, Controlled, Consistent

Although this advice may seem impossible during the angry, frustrating period preceding your divorce, it is essential to keep your eye on the prize. If you want to end up having custody of your child, you will have to:

Communicate civilly with your spouse, especially in front of your child

As you know, children hear, and often unexpectedly repeat, everything, including things you tell them about their other parent. Judges will not take kindly to hearing, or hearing about, angry outbursts or negative comments by one parent about the other. This extends to communications with neighbors, teachers, etc., and definitely includes derogatory comments on social media websites. The nastier the words you use, the more likely they are to come back to haunt you. One thing you definitely want to avoid is hearing another person speak your damaging words from the witness stand under oath.

Keep your hands to yourself unless you’re giving a hug

Tension levels can elevate quickly during discussions with your soon-to-be-ex, as well as within your family generally. When you want to lash out that is precisely when you must exert self-control. A slap, a push, a fist through a wall, even a hand raised in threat, can interfere with your best intentions, result in a restraining order, and reducing your chances of reconstructing a smaller, more stable family unit. 

Also, refrain from damaging your spouse’s clothing, important papers, car or other belongings. No matter what the provocation, such actions will make you look like the aggressor and a poor role model for your child.

Keep your private life as private as possible

Try to keep new romantic partners away from your child, or at least don’t treat a newcomer like an intimate in her presence. There is no reason to make the situation more complicated or emotionally confusing for your child than it already is, at least until the divorce is final.

Meet your obligations relative to the child’s other parent

Even if the agreed-on arrangements about childcare are temporary and not yet legally binding, the court will take a dim view of your failing to have the child ready for a visit with the other parent or delay bringing the child back to the other parent in a timely fashion. By the same token, failing to meet your financial obligations will work against you in a big way. Such failures may be perceived as indications of your irresponsibility, or worse, your disregard for your child’s needs.

Do not interfere with your child’s relationship with the other parent

Making it difficult for your child to see his or her other parent is likely to be viewed by the court as a hostile act and may interfere with your obtaining custody. You should make every effort to schedule regular visitation and not to make appointments for non-emergency doctor visits, shopping trips, play dates, or outings during these designated times. Also, it is crucial that you inform the other parent if you will be taking the child out of the area, even on a day trip. The court presumes that both parents have the right to know where their children are.

On the other hand, if possible, don’t interfere with your child’s routine 

Your child’s life, like your own, is in turmoil during this period and it’s important that he can count on keeping to a normal routine. Be mindful of when the child has athletic events, art classes, play rehearsals, or friends’ birthday parties scheduled and try to avoid depriving him of the opportunity to participate in the things he enjoys. Otherwise, you will create increased tension between the child and yourself and he may express reluctance to see you which obviously won’t help you in court.

Your behavior can make substantive differences in the way the custody situation is decided. If you follow the above suggestions and engage the services of a fine family law attorney, you will greatly increase your chances of getting the child custody arrangements you want.

About the Author
David is a former military prosecutor and defense lawyer with over a decade of experience fighting for service members and their families. He served nine years and two combat tours as an active duty US Army officer, then joined the Reserves and settled down in Syracuse to be near family. Now representing people across Central New York charged with serious felonies, misdemeanors, DWIs, and traffic offenses, he puts the same level of commitment into his civilian law practice. If you have any questions regarding this article, you can contact David here.