There are some common mistakes that parents make when they are embattled in a custody fight for their children. Most often, a parent will automatically seek full custody of their children because they feel that the other parent is unfit. Although this may be the case at times, seeking full custody could back-fire should you allegations of fitness not be true. What most parents fail to understand is that the judge is concerned with making a ruling that is in the best interests of the children; a trait that is not reflected in a parent who is seeking full custody of their children without proof that the other parent is unfit. Taking this into account before you step in front of the judge.
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In a sole custody arrangement, one parent has both physical and legal custody of the child. The other parent may have visitation rights, but does not have any custodial rights, and cannot make decisions affecting the child.
The Better Parent
In most cases, a judge will make an order for sole custody unless there is a safety or health issue relating to the child’s care. It is rare for one parent to gain sole custody when both parents were involved in that child’s life up until your court date. It is necessary to have both parents in a child’s life in order to produce the greatest amount of overall well-being for the child. Having an absent mother or father can cause issues later in a child’s life. Also, one parent trying to prove that the other is not fit to raise a child can be extremely difficult. To gain sole custody, a judge would have to see proof that a parent abuses drugs or alcohol, is violent or abusive, or is mentally unstable.
The Encouraging Parent
Judges will take notice of parents who take into account the psychological well-being of their children. Whether you’re trying to get sole custody or joint custody, showing the court that you’re involved in your child’s school, sport activity, and have knowledge of any and all medical needs proves that you are not only an involved parent but one who will most likely work with the other parent in raising the child.
The Supportive Parent
You gain a lot of respect when you are not requesting sole custody and are in favor of sharing custody and maintaining a relationship, even if it is just a working relationship, with the other parent. This acknowledgement of the need for both parents shows that you care more about the child than your feelings about the other parent. Having a parenting plan or some kind of strategy worked out is a great thing to have to show the judge that you’ve been giving this a lot of thought. If you don’t have one written up, show the court that you openly want to establish a parenting plan to map out a schedule for what nights they stay with the mother or father, who takes the child to school, contingency plans for emergencies etc.
Appearing in Family Court
You need to dress appropriately. If you don’t have a suit, go out and buy one. If you’re a t-shirt and shorts kind of person this might be a little more difficult. Regardless of your feelings about dress attire, looking your best in general should be a concern of yours. If you’re well dressed and well groomed, this immediately shows the judge that you’re serious and professional. A sports coat and a nice pair of shoes goes a lot farther than jeans and a t-shirt.
Your Conduct in Family Court
Be careful of what you say and when you speak. In a court room setting, it’s always important not to speak out of turn. This can be hard for some and can be a problem for those who are not patient. When you and your ex are in front of the judge, wait until your attorney instructs you to talk. Do not respond to the other parent’s accusations. A quick response or an emotional outburst will do more damage than help. Sometimes the other parent will blurt-out an accusation that they cannot prove; use this to your advantage by allowing your attorney to explore the irrational behavior the other parent is displaying. Remember, allegations are nothing more than opinions without proof and even though you may find it hard to be silent, you can win your case by keeping quiet.
The Family Court Proceeding
Essentially, the judge doesn’t want to hear accusations that cannot be proved or simple argument. The judge wants just the facts and the surrounding circumstances which can be used to support a decision. Most of the time the judge will have already read your petition before stepping into the court room. Both sides will be able to present their case after which the judge will render a decision.
Child Custody Factors Considered by a Judge
A judge isn’t going to dismiss your case because of a single factor in your case file or your personal life. Everyone has issues and nobody is perfect. However, the judge will not make a ruling that will negatively affect your children. The factors considered are:
- Stability: This is a general term for many different aspects of a person’s life. Historically, for fathers, this is slightly more difficult, depending on the age of the child and a few other determining factors. However, the court will take into consideration the stability of both parents before awarding custody. Your stability is reflected in financially security and your psychological make-up. A parent who can provide for their child and who is not likely to lose control of their temper is more likely to win a custody battle than the parent who cannot find a job or is prone to mood swings.
- Relationship with your children: The bond you have developed with your child can be used to prove the need for custody, increased custody or even sole custody. If the child has stronger emotional ties to one parent over the other this will definitely come into play during the judge’s deliberation.
- Why You Want Custody: Your motive for seeking custody plays a big role in the judge’s decision to award custody. All parents want to be with their children but you need to remember that a child needs both parents. If you’re seeking full custody of your child, remember that the judge will take into consideration the potential emotional effects on the child and the possible damages to the child’s relationship with the other parent. If one parent is providing the child with a safe and stable environment, taking them out of that environment to live with the other parent could be detrimental to their wellbeing.
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