How to Fight and Win a Custody Battle
The first and most important thing to do if you’re going through a child custody battle with your ex is knowing why you’re fighting for custody in the first place. There are a lot of people out there who want, or need, to win their child custody cases, but don’t know exactly what they’re fighting for. If this sounds like you, you might want to take a step back and consider why you’re fighting for custody in the first place. Everyone’s situation is different, so there are going to be multiple reasons why you would do this, but one of the main ones is probably that you legitimately care about your child’s well being and have their best interest at heart.
As nice as this may sound, it usually doesn’t come through in some kind of child custody battle. The reason for this is that you’re going to be so wrapped up in the legal aspect of things that you might forget why you started fighting in the first place. This is not something you want to happen if you’re serious about winning your child custody battle.
Next, you need to be realistic in your expectations. In child custody cases, the paramount issue is almost always what’s going to happen with the children: where are they going to live? When will they see their father or mother? This makes sense because that’s what people want to know, but it also means that a lot of times the parent or parents who are fighting for custody will be at a disadvantage. This is because there’s an element of subjectivity surrounding these kinds of questions, and the situation, in general, is going to require you to make sacrifices that you might not want to make.
The other thing you need to take into consideration when trying to win your child custody battle is what your ex is going to do. It doesn’t matter how reasonable and level-headed you are, if they decide to fight dirty then you’re almost guaranteed to lose your case. The reason for this is that the other parent has a lot of control over the situation; they can make things difficult by simply not showing up or being cross-examined, or they can even go as far as lying under oath if that’s what it takes for them to win.
This is why you have to be so careful and strategize all the possibilities before putting your plan into action. There are a lot of factors stacked against you when fighting for custody, but there should never be a situation where you lose hope.
There are a lot of things to be cautious about when fighting for custody, but there are also plenty of ways to get an upper hand. Here’s how:
Use negative ammunition against your ex. What I mean by this is showing the court that your ex isn’t incredibly reasonable and rational; if the judge and/or opposing counsel thinks your ex is being unreasonable, then chances are they’ll rule in your favor.
Work with the court system to maintain jurisdiction over your child. A big mistake a lot of people make is thinking that one parent has more rights than the other, but this isn’t necessarily true. If you’re a reasonable parent who’s willing to work with the court system and do whatever is in the child’s best interest then you should be able to get things done.
There are a lot of things that can go wrong if you’re going through a custody battle, but there are plenty of ways to use this as an opportunity to teach your kids valuable life lessons. This, in turn, will teach them to treat their children with kindness and respect even when they’re going through a bad period.
What To Do to Win Your Child Custody Battle
Here are some tips on winning your child custody battle.
Tip #1: Show a willingness to work together with your EX
Remember that you’re going to be on this team with your child’s other parent and the court system wants you to work together and not apart.
Tip #2: Don’t shrug off or be late to visitation
If you want to show a good faith effort to the court and make sure your child’s other parent isn’t always complaining about something you usually have control over. If you’re late, don’t show up, or don’t let your ex know where/when/for how long your taking the kids then there’s going to be an issue.
Tip #3: Don’t reschedule visits with you kids
If you reschedule visits often, it’s a sign of instability; a sign that you maybe fighting for custody for the wrong reasons like control, revenge, or monetary because you don’t want to pay child support.
Tip #4: Don’t put your children in the middle
If your fighting for custody, things aren’t going to be pretty but do not put your children in the middle, it doesn’t show stability.
Tip #5: Don’t let the other parent put their children in the middle
It can be really easy for a cross-examining attorney, or an angry or bitter ex to try to make you look bad in front of your kids. The judge is going to see right through this, but it’s easy to control the damage when your kids are being bickered back and forth; they’re hearing a lot more than what is actually being said.
Tip #6: Use negative ammunition against the other parent.
Something I like to do is to look at the negative things my ex has been convicted of, or done in the past. This might be drugs, theft, DUIs, etc. These are all useful pieces of information that could help your case and make your ex look terrible; especially if you have pictures or police reports.
Tip #7: Be respectful of the other parent.
This is something that has to be done even when things are at their worst. Don’t use dirty tactics, don’t talk poorly about your ex, and steer clear of anything that would look bad in court or make you look like a bitter person with no control over themselves.
Tip #8: Stand up for yourself.
A lot of people say that you shouldn’t attack your ex because they’ll use it against you, but if you have a good case then let the judges know. The judge isn’t going to be afraid of your hard truth; do not back down and let them walk all over you.
Tip #9: Teach your children to respect others.
Many people think that they’re going to win the battle by making their ex look bad.
If you do this, you’re missing a great opportunity to teach your children good life lessons about treating other people with kindness and respect even when things aren’t going well.
Tip #10: Use social media sites and your blog to get public support.
This is a great way to show the courts that you have a lot of support and are working in the best interest for your children.
Tip #11: Don’t give up; keep fighting through the end If it’s going bad, don’t stop fighting.
Children need two parents, not one. If you’re winning, don’t stop fighting at the end thinking the battle is over; it isn’t until a judge says so.
Tip #12: Have reasonable expectations & make sure they are realistic.
This means that if you want visits every weekend and holidays that you need to be realistic about how much time your child’s other parent can spend with their kids.
Tip #13: Don’t use dirty tactics.
Dirty tactics include using your children as weapons, threatening or hurting the other parent in any way, taking photos of or spying on the other parent etc. These will only hurt you and do nothing but give your ex ammunition to use against you.
Tip #14: Keep a diary of and document everything.
This includes things that your ex does or says against you. You may think it’s not important, but trust me you’re going to want this when your child’s other parent tries to make you look bad in front of the judge.
Tip #15: Don’t be afraid to get a lawyer.
If your going through a custody battle , I highly recommend you watch a few episodes of Judge Judy and get yourself a lawyer. Unless you have the money to go through court unrepresented, it’s going to be very difficult for you to win against an ex who has one on their side.
Tip #15: Try to resolve issues with the other parent without a third party.
If you need a mediator, try to keep it reasonable and fair but don’t accept unreasonable mediators or judges. Don’t lose your temper – Stay calm.
Tip #16: Understand this is a perception game.
It’s the way the court looks at you in the end that really matters, not the mistakes of the past but the present behavior is what matters most, on how you treated your kids, your spouse, and your responsibilities from the moment your child was born. If you were in trouble prior to a child coming into your life the court looks more at how you have been with the new responsibility. It isn’t a deal breaker unless it was something violent.
Tip #17: Be prepared for anything.
The person you’re fighting could have friends and family who are looking to help out, or even a secret partner you may not be expecting.
Tip #18: Have proper documentation and keep it organized.
This includes pictures, emails, phone calls and logs of everything you do with your children. Keep records of all the things the other parent does that isn’t average or reasonable for good child rearing.
Tip #19: Collect evidence of good parenting.
This is a great way to imply that the other parent was negligent in their duties.
Tip #20: Be prepared for lies.
Not only will the other parent try to make you look bad, but many people are offended by what is happening and end up making false allegations or twisting facts; be prepared!
The Myths of Child Custody:
Myth #1:The best parent is the one who most wants the child.
This isn’t always true, as there are times when it is better to have two parents that don’t want to be with each other, but rather than fight they work together for their children’s sake. It’s a lot more work and stress to go through court and if the child ends up with two “bad” parents, then it’s not such a great situation for the kids. Court cases are very stressful to children (even though they have no idea what’s going on) and too much stress can lead to many childhood issues like depression, anxiety or even delinquency later in life.
Myth #2: The best parent is the one with custody.
Again, not always true. Some of the time it’s better to allow two parents that don’t get along with each other to both have equal custody even though they hate each other and never want to see each other again. This can be very stressful for a child and can lead to many similar childhood issues as the first myth. The child is likely to develop a lot of anxiety and stress regarding their parents situation in life and may become very emotionally scarred due to this, once again leading down the path of delinquency, or just general unhappy life.
Myth #3: All states are the same.
The state you live in or move to could decide the custody battle for you, whether it’s good or bad. Pennsylvania has some of the most stable law regarding child support and custody battles and California (yes, it is true) has one of the worst laws in this regard. A child support case can take years to settle out there!
Myth #4: You have to be a good parent to get custody.
While this is true, in the eyes of the court it’s all about perception and what the judge or jury thinks you are like. It isn’t a set of rules you must follow, but rather general guidelines which can vary depending on where you are. The level of “good” depends on the judge and who you are. If you are a father, or have been through a divorce once already, you may be perceived as bad by the court for no other reason than those things.
Myth #5: All ‘custody’ is equal (50/50).
This isn’t completely true, as there are several variations of custody that different judges will issue.
Physical Custody This is by far the most popular type of custody, and what people normally think about when you say “custody battle”. It means that your child lives with you more than they live with the other parent.
Legal Custody This is when the parents share equal right to make decisions about the child’s life. This can vary from being a hands-on type of situation where both parents are required to be consulted or it can simply mean that you have joint legal custody without sharing physical custody.
Myth #6: The custodial parent has more rights than the non-custodial parent.
This is very far from being true, as the non-custodial parent will still have all of their rights. It may seem like a lot is taken away when you are no longer living with your child on a daily basis, but it really isn’t compared to what could happen if you lose custody altogether.
Myth #7: If the non-custodial parent doesn’t pay child support, the custodial parent loses their custody rights.
This isn’t true, as it is entirely up to the court to decide how much the non-custodial parent must pay in order for them to have equal custody rights (or any at all). If they pay the required support amount, they will maintain their rights. (but if you’re late with a payment, it may cause some problems later)
Myth #8: Custody money can’t be taken from Social Security or other funds.
This is very far from true, as it’s simply a “garnish”. If you get a hold of your child’s or ex-spouse’s Social Security check, then the courts will simply place a garnishment against it; removing an amount from each check until what is owed (including interest) has been paid off.
Myth #9: You always have to wait 50/50 for custody.
Although this is what many people believe or want, it’s not actually how things work. If you have a lot of money (or potential to make lots), then you can use that against the other parent in order to get full custody up-front instead of having to wait. This is generally a good thing as long as you can financially support both yourself and the child.
Myth #10: You have to go to court for custody rights.
This is mostly a myth in itself, as if you have 50/50 legal custody then you’ll need to go to court for any major changes. If there are no legal changes, then it’s only a matter of filing a change with Child Support Enforcement and you’re done!
Myth #11: You must have an attorney to get custody.
This is true if you want full custody or if you are contesting the other parent. Most states require a minimum amount of contact with your child for them to be considered a “custodial” parent. However, if you have 50/50 legal custody then a lawyer is optional.
Myth #12: The child has to decide which parent they want to live with.
While this sounds like it would be feasible; it isn’t and probably never will be possible no matter what the laws are. While you may have a large influence on who they want to live with, the courts have no say in this matter as it’s up to the parent(s) themselves. Another factor that is almost completely out of your hands is geography; most kids will choose to live closer to friends and/or school.
Myth #13: You can’t fight for custody if you have a record.
This is untrue, as you can still get custody of your child so long as it’s not done out of spite; or for the sole purpose of alienating them from the other parent. If you are able to prove that there was a barrier in place (such as domestic violence) then you will have significantly more legal options available to you now.
Myth #14: If the child is over 18 when custody proceedings begin, they have no say in which parent they are with.
This one is true, as the courts will not decide this matter for them; but it’s a good thing! They may be 19 years old or older when this happens, but they STILL didn’t want the situation that they’re in. They (if they feel strongly about it) will continue to live with whichever parent until either their real preference wins out or they reach legal adulthood.
Myth #15: If you don’t have an alimony agreement, then there is no way to get support.
If you don’t have a prenuptial agreement then this may be true; but if you do then the court will use it in determining how much child support to give to each parent. If you’re only asking for child support (and not alimony), then there are still numerous ways to get what you want without having the courts make this determination.
Myth #16: The courts will decide what’s best for the child.
While the court may want to do what is “best” for your child; it’s often not their decision. If you have 50/50 legal custody, then obviously you’re involved in deciding what’s best for them (along with the other parent). If you have your child full-time then obviously you’re making all of the decisions for them.
Myth #17: The court always favors and sides with the woman.
It’s not always the case, but it seems to be more of a trend in family court than anywhere else. The reason for this is that it was more likely for a man to abandon his family back in the 1970s and 80s; as women have been shown by numerous sources to be much better parents than men.
But, with that said the court does not try and take sides based on gender when it comes to child custody. The standard rule is that the woman get’s default physical custody until paternity is done. Then it’s 50/50 and physical placement.
If you are unwed at the time of birth and not the one giving birth. You have no rights to the child until paternity is proven.
Overview: It’s all about perception. From the minute you enter the court room, during mediation, and in front of the guardian ad litem which will aid you in having a more favorable outcome in your child custody battle. The way you handle yourself, your manner, and more importantly showing that your kids mean the world to you, which they should is the only way to win a custody battle.
If you are facing a child custody issue or child custody battle and need a competent and affordable child custody lawyer in Jacksonville, call Attorney Adam Sacks for a free consultation at (904) 396-5557 or contact us.