Who is going to get the children? If you are going through a divorce and have children, you are more than likely asking yourself this very question. While every state is different, there are some general guidelines judges use to decide custody in divorce cases. Below, you will find a basic FAQ that can help you win your child custody case.
Which parent is the better parent for the children?
This is a question you will have to honestly ask yourself before starting a custody battle. If you look in the mirror and decide it is currently your spouse but you still want custody, they you need to address the issues that make you the lesser parent and become the better parent.
How do I become the “better” parent in the eyes of the court?
First and foremost, the children must come first. This means that you are adapting to their schedule, not the other way around. For instance, are your children being prevented from participating in school activities simply because of your work or personal schedule? You also need to be willing to work with other parent on issues such as visitation and discipline. If you are the one creating barriers, the judge will see this as a detriment to custody.
Are you spending available time with the children?
A common scenario is that one parent leaves the home when the decision to divorce has been made. Assuming there is not a legal reason preventing the parent from seeing and spending time with the children, some type of visitation schedule is probably in place. Well, spending JUST those hours with the kids is not enough. Are you picking them up from school and bringing them home? Are you taking extra afternoons to spend time with them when possible? Are you attending school or extracurricular activities when they occur at times other than your scheduled visits? Are you actually missing visits due to your personal or work schedule? The more flexibility you show in terms of caring for the children, the better case you can make that you should have custody.
Are you conducting yourself properly when you do not have the children?
Obviously, you are expected to act responsibly when the children are in your custody, but how are you acting when they are not with you? Are you drinking excessively? Is there a drug problem? Are you leading an openly promiscuous lifestyle? Have you been arrested? These are all things that your spouse may bring up in court to show how unfit you are to raise the children. Regardless of whether or not the children are in your care, you need to conduct your life as a responsible parent.
Do you have appropriate living conditions?
This is probably more of a concern for the parent leaving the current home. In many cases, finances dictate new living arrangements. Are you actually able to afford a home that is acceptable for the children? In other words, a small studio apartment is not acceptable for a parent and three children. If you want the children, you will need a home the court deems acceptable for them to live in. If you have older children, do you have enough space for each of them to have their own bedrooms? Is the home close to their current school and friends?
Where are you taking the children when they are in your custody?
Just as it is important to have a proper home for the children, it is also important that you are taking them to acceptable places when you have them. For instance, are you already in another relationship and spending a lot of time with that person? Are your children spending time in this person’s home? If so, what are the living conditions and environment of this home? Is the home dangerous for the children?
How will your child’s coaches and teachers describe you?
To overlook the impression you give to adults in your child’s daily life is a mistake. Are you instrumental in the education of your child? Are you attending parent/teacher meetings? Are you checking in with the teacher on a regular basis to monitor any problems? Are you attending your child’s sporting events? In other words, you need to be just as active in separation, possibly more so, than you were while you and your spouse were still together if you want to win custody, especially if you are the parent outside the home.
Who is babysitting your children when they are in your care?
This is something else that will be checked by the courts. While the ideal situation has you at home with the children at all times, the court will understand this is not necessarily always possible. In these cases, you will need to have a care provider that can responsibly care for your child. Whether this happens at some type of child care center or in your home, make sure you have thoroughly check out the provider and that he or she is a responsible individual the court cannot find fault with if they are investigated.
Act accordingly around your children.
This is something else that cannot be stressed enough. It is quite common to feel animosity towards your ex, but just do not talk about it or demonstrate it in front of or around the children. If you are badmouthing your ex around the kids, it will hurt your case. Regardless of how you feel, you need to be willing to work with your ex and act “human” around him or her as well as around the children.
Do not make life difficult for your ex.
This is just a follow up to the point above. If you are making the life of your ex miserable in every way possible, it will affect your children. Not only that, but it may also affect how they look at you and treat you. The last thing you want is animosity towards your ex affecting the relationship you have with your children.
Do not put your children in a difficult spot.
By this we mean do not constantly ask your children what their mother or father is up to or which parent they would rather live with. In most cases, you are simply going to hear what they think you want to hear anyway. Do you honestly think your son or daughter is doing to say mom if you are the father and you ask them where they want to live? Just be a good parent and take care of them to the best of your abilities when they are with you.
At one time, it was automatically assumed, barring extraordinary circumstances, that the mother would be awarded custody of the children. Today, more moms are the breadwinners and more fathers are staying at home to take care of the children. If that is not the case, both parents are probably working and have an equal chance of winning custody of the children in divorce. The best advice we can give, over and above everything else, is to simply act like you want custody of your children and many of these things will take care of themselves. This will allow you to present the possible case to the judge, and then it is in his or her hands.
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