According to the US Census Bureau, over 25 percent of all children under 21 years of age have one parent living outside of their household. Engaging in a child custody battle may be one of the most stressful, yet significant, things you will ever do. Being a part of your child’s life is irreplaceable, and your child’s well-being may be on the line.
Although courts prefer joint custody arrangements, there may be circumstances where sharing custody does not work. It is important to remember that a judge’s primary concern is to determine what situation would be in the best interests of the child.
It is your obligation to show the judge that you are a loving, caring, and responsible parent who can offer a stable and safe home to your child. This article will discuss the custody arrangements available to you and some things that you can do to help ensure you win custody of your child.
Understanding Child Custody Laws and Terms
Parents going through a child custody battle need to have a clear understanding of the different types of child custody. Child custody can be a confusing subject and you may feel lost when researching the meanings of different professional and legal terms. A child custody lawyer can help to explain and define these.
When a parent is granted physical custody of the child, the child will live with that parent. On the other hand, a parent who is granted legal custody of the child has the right to make important decisions about the child’s life.
Choosing the Custody Arrangement That Is Best for Your Family
In Utah, there are four types of child custody arrangements. You may need to fight for the one best for your children.
Sole legal and sole physical
In this custody agreement, the child lives with one parent, and that parent makes major decisions about the child’s life.
While the other parent may be awarded visitation time under this custodial arrangement, the child will typically reside with only one parent.
Joint legal and joint physical
In a joint custody agreement, the child lives with both parents for varying durations throughout the year. Both parents are responsible for decision-making regarding the child.
The details of the joint custody arrangement will differ depending on the needs of each individual family.
Joint legal and sole physical
In this custody situation, the child will live with one parent for at least a specified number of days each year and have visitation with the other parent. Both parents will have a say in making important decisions about the child’s life.
This is a common custody arrangement because it allows the child to have a stable schedule, especially during the school year.
This is a custody agreement for households with two or more children where the parents each want sole custody of at least one of the kids. Judges may award split custody if they believe that it is in the best interests of the children to be separated between the two parents.
Each parent may be granted full physical and/or legal custody of a different child.
Grounds That May Justify Sole Child Custody
In most situations, courts prefer that parents work out some sort of joint custody arrangement. If you are pursuing sole custody of your child, keep in mind you and your attorney are presenting a case to the court – not of what is in your best interests as the parent, but rather of what is best for your child.
You must prove that you can provide the child with a safe, loving, and stable home and that there are circumstances that make the other parent unfit to have custody.
The following are some reasons why a judge may grant a mother or a father sole custody of the kids:
- Abuse: Evidence one parent has abused the child physically, psychologically, or sexually
- Domestic violence: One parent has committed acts of violence against the other
- Substance abuse: One parent has a history of abusing drugs or alcohol
- Neglect: One parent has neglected to provide the child with food, clothing, supervision, medical care, shelter, and other basic needs
- Mental illness: Mental health issues that have been left untreated and the parent is mentally unstable and exhibits unpredictable behavior
- Incarceration: A parent who is in prison is unable to shelter and care for a child’s needs
- Relocation: One parent is planning to move to a different state or country
If your petition is based on any of the above grounds, you must have solid evidence to support your case.
Sole child custody should always be pursued for the good of the child, not for retaliation against the other parent.
Steps to Win a Child Custody Battle
Understandably, child custody battles are usually the most emotionally charged parts of a divorce. You love your kids and want what is in their best interests.
The following are some suggestions to help you win your child custody battle.
Put your child’s best interests first
It should go without saying that your child’s best interests should be your priority. Sadly, though, some parents lose sight of this while going through the custody battle. Trying to “win” against your ex-spouse should never be put ahead of the needs of your kids.
Remember that children feel stress and anxiety just as their parents do. Children who have a mother and father going through a divorce and custody battle may experience changes in sleep patterns, moods, and behaviors.
This is an emotionally challenging time and it is important to stay focused on your children, providing them with reassurance and emotional support. Spending time with your child, prioritizing parenting time, and being cooperative with the other parent are good ways to show the court that your child’s well-being is what’s most important to you.
Try to be civil with the other parent
Rather than using the custody battle as an opportunity to take your frustrations out on your ex-spouse, try to keep your focus on your kids and their happiness.
Do your best to be civil and not fight with your ex-spouse. Refrain from letting custody negotiations turn into a shouting match. Judges will be looking for maturity and controlled behavior.
While it can be difficult, try to keep unresolved issues and personal feelings between the two of you out of the custody case. Do your best to remain calm and focus only on the issues directly involving the children.
Do not vent on social media
While it may be tempting to get on social media and vent about your ex, doing so could hurt your child custody case. Your ex-spouse’s lawyer could use these posts as evidence of parental alienation.
Besides comments about your ex, you need to be cautious about anything else you post on social media while you are in a custody battle.
Information posted on social media can be used as evidence of your:
- Spending habits
- Mental and emotional well-being and stability
- Location history
- Type of people you choose to associate with
Any posts that cast you in an unfavorable light or as exercising poor judgment could potentially be used against you in court.
Provide a safe and healthy home life for your child
The other parent in the custody battle could accuse you of creating an unsafe home environment. Your attorney will advise you to ensure your home is a safe, clean, and comfortable place for your child to live. If you have young children, make sure to appropriately childproof the home to protect them from hazards.
You should not let anyone whom the court may consider to be dangerous – such as drug users, dealers, felons, or someone convicted of a sexual crime – be around your children. When hiring a babysitter for your kids, be sure to hire someone experienced and qualified; do a full background check before leaving your child with anyone new.
It is also important to maintain a safe driving record. When your kids are in the car, make sure they use car seats if required or wear their seatbelts. It will not look good in court if you have gotten traffic tickets, especially with your kids in the car with you.
Avoid making false allegations
A person may make a false allegation in an attempt to prevent the other parent from seeing the child. Unfortunately, false allegations are a common source of child custody battles.
Parents should avoid making false accusations against each other since the results can be devastating to their children.
If you are a parent who is having lies said about you, it is possible to defend yourself against such allegations. You can work with your attorney, friends, and other family members to prove the accusations are untrue.
Keep involved in your child’s life
If the current parenting plan is limiting time with your child, you could get frustrated. However, even if your current parenting time is limited, it is essential to make the best of the time you do get to spend with your child.
Adjust your schedule to make sure you are available for all scheduled visits and phone calls. Even if the other parent does not allow you to see your child, the court will take notice of initiatives and consistency.
Document all visitations and calls that you have with your child. If you have primary custody, you should document when the other parent misses his or her scheduled parenting time.
Cooperate with the court
In a custody battle, it is the responsibility of the judge to determine what is in the best interests of your child. To do that, the court will need to gather details about both parents, consider the wishes of the child, and take various factors into consideration.
It may take some time for the judge to examine enough evidence to make a custody decision. Until the final ruling, the judge may make a temporary custody decision.
This means parents may find themselves left with:
- An adjusted parenting plan
- A court order to attend counseling
- The placement of your child in the custody of the other parent
- Supervised or limited visits with your child
While all these scenarios can be frustrating to you as a mother or father, remember that this is not the final ruling. It is just the judge’s decision until all of the facts are gathered and presented.
Hire a family law attorney
A child custody battle can be complex and emotionally charged. With something as serious as the custody of your child on the line, it is essential that you hire a lawyer as soon as possible.
An experienced attorney will have the knowledge of family law needed to protect your rights. It is especially essential to retain legal representation if you are concerned about the well-being of your child. Having a lawyer on your side will help ensure your child’s best interests are represented.
It is important to hire an attorney to represent you from the start of your child custody case. Having an attorney guide you from the beginning can help you to avoid costly mistakes. A skilled lawyer can help you understand your options and guide you through the legal process.
While most parents want others to view them as good mothers or fathers, the reality is that everyone makes mistakes and has different parenting styles. Regardless of how tempting it may be to try to put yourself in a good light, do not lie in court.
For example, if you left your child alone for an hour without a babysitter or got a speeding ticket with your child in the vehicle, admit it. If you lie and then a witness contradicts your statement, you will look worse than if you had just been honest in the first place.
It is also important that you be open and honest with your lawyer. While it may be embarrassing to bring up any parenting or personal mistakes that you have made, you can be sure that your ex probably won’t hesitate to bring them up at some point.
Telling your lawyer everything from the start allows time for him or her to prepare for it and provide useful context. Lying or hiding the truth is only going to hurt your custody case.
Work to child custody resolve child custody issues
In many situations, the best way to “win” a child custody battle is to work with the other parent to come to an agreement. It is often in the best interests of everyone involved if a child custody case is settled out of court.
When you and your ex-partner agree on a custody arrangement, you can tailor it to the needs of your family without having to let a judge determine the outcome.
Even in family situations that are contentious, a mediator can sometimes be used to help parents communicate and come to an agreement. During mediation sessions, a neutral third party guides the discussion and encourages both parties to communicate.
Contact an Experienced Family Law Attorney Today
The best way to win a child custody dispute is to hire a family law lawyer to represent you. An attorney can help protect your rights and ensure that the best interests of your child are upheld.
Do not leave the future of your children up to chance or in the wrong hands – come to us. Brown Family Law has been helping parents with child custody cases since 2010. We have helped protect the rights of thousands of families and can do the same for you.
Our family law attorneys are dedicated to helping our clients maximize their time with their kids. Call us at 801-685-9999 or complete the contact form to schedule a family law consultation and case evaluation.