In the United States, one in four children lives in a single-parent household. That’s three times more compared to the worldwide average.
The high divorce case rate in the US is one reason for the high proportion of single-parent families. The divorce rate has gone down since the 1990s, but it was still 2.7 per 1,000 of the 2019 population. That means more than a third of marriages still ended in a divorce that year.
If you’re a parent going through a divorce yourself, you must prepare for your child custody case, too. Otherwise, your split-up could compromise your parental rights.
To that end, we created this guide discussing the steps you can take to win your custody battle. Read on to discover how to raise your chances of protecting your rights as a loving parent.
1. Do Your Best To Stay On Amicable Terms With Your Ex
Couples who go through uncontested divorce are more likely to stay civil with each other. This collaborative decision to split up can make it easier to come up with a fair custody agreement. For that reason, you’d want to be as amicable as you can toward your former spouse.
Keep in mind that family courts base their custody decision on a child’s best interests. The child custody law requires courts to grant custody to the parent who can best satisfy a child’s needs. That’s why judges also take a closer look at each parent’s behaviors.
As such, being hostile and displaying anger all the time can lead to you losing your custody case.
You don’t have to stay friends with your ex, but don’t lash out in anger during your conversations, either. You’re already dissolving your marriage, so there’s no longer a need to point fingers. Staying calm is easier said than done, but do your best to show a willingness to cooperate with your ex at all times.
2. Keep Your Negative Opinions of Your Ex to Yourself
Never talk about your former spouse in a negative way, especially not in front of your children. Young kids may not understand divorce yet, but they’re sensitive to parental hostility. Saying something like “I can better take care of you than your mom/dad” can already cause them distress.
Also, keep in mind that kids start to form explicit and implicit memories when they hit two years old. Implicit memories, which have to do with emotions, make up the bulk of a child’s recollections. This means they can recall angry statements parents say about each other.
Those memories, in turn, can come up during a child’s custody interview. If you made many negative comments about your ex, your kids could say them aloud during the interview. That would put you in a bad light and may hurt your chances of winning the custody battle.
You should also exercise caution when posting personal stuff on social media. Anything you publish online can become public, and the court can use it against you. Ranting about your ex online can affect your potential to win your custody case.
3. Study Your State’s Child Custody Laws
States have varying child custody laws, but they share similar deciding factors. These include the child’s wishes, favoring joint custody, and statutory factors. Many also factor in parent cooperativeness and domestic violence.
All states also have statutes that authorize family courts to terminate parental rights. Some of these include chronic or severe abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, and abandonment. Courts also factor in untreated mental illness and substance abuse disorder.
Knowing your state’s child custody laws can help you prove that you are a fit to be a parent.
4. Consider Hiring a Child Custody Attorney
Custody laws are complex, and judges can use their own estimations to decide who gets custody. Don’t assume that they will grant you custody just because you make more money than your ex. You might have a higher salary, but the courts will also factor in your parenting abilities.
So, even if you’re aiming to get joint custody, you should still be open to hiring a child custody attorney. A lawyer will explain all the legal jargon so that you can better understand what and what not to do with your case. Your attorney will also pinpoint parenting-related areas that you need to improve upon.
5. Make Your Home Suitable For Your Kids
Your home should reflect your ability to give your kids a safe, secure, and stable place to grow. If you live in a tiny studio apartment, the court can use that as a factor in your wanting to gain custody of two or more kids. The same goes for if you live somewhere with an exceptionally high rate of crime or pollution.
Your home’s structural stability can also play a role in the court’s decision to grant you custody. If you live in a home with severe damages, the judge is likely to factor that in since it can put your kids in harm’s way. If your ex lives in a cleaner, safer house, the court may lean toward granting your ex more custodial rights.
Don’t forget to consider the special health and safety needs of your children. For example, if you have a kid with asthma, you’d want to make your home as allergen-free as possible. If you smoke or if your home is full of dust and debris, the court can use that against you.
If you’d need to move to a new place, choose one that’s not too far from where your kids live. After all, disruptions in a child’s daily routine go against their best interest. If your children need to travel too far to see you and stay at your place, the court can consider that a disruption.
Raise Your Odds of Winning Your Custody Case With These Tips
A child custody case can be even more distressing and emotional than a divorce. However, you can turn it into an amicable joint custody agreement if you and your ex collaborate. Your goal is to protect your kids, so strive to cooperate with your ex so that both of you can retain parental rights.
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