Tips for Succeeding in Your Custody Battle
Perhaps no aspect of a divorce or other family law case causes as much emotional turmoil and provokes heated arguments and accusations as child custody battles. Parents of children who are separating or divorcing may agree on most every other issue and still battle one another fiercely for custody of their children. Whether this is due to a firm and genuinely-held belief that he or she is best suited to care for the children or whether the parent is attempting to gain custody for more nefarious or self-centered reasons, confusion and frustration are common in child custody disputes as parents’ custody wishes and desires are subordinated to the conclusions and determinations of a judge.
How to Have Better Success in Child Custody Proceedings
There is no magic formula for guaranteeing success in a child custody proceeding. Anytime a court is called upon to make a determination or ruling regarding custody, the court will hear arguments and evidence and render a decision it believes is in the “best interest of the child.” Understanding that this is the standard your family law judge will be applying is key to understanding the type of evidence and arguments that will be most persuasive to the court. The court’s focus is not on which parent is “better” than the other, but on what it believes is best for your child.
In seeking custody of your child or attempting to modify existing custody orders, consider the following tips for preparing and presenting your case:
- The court is likely going to want to give each parent as much time as possible with the child. While work schedules and residences may limit the ability of each parent to have equal amounts of parenting time, know that a court is more likely to approve a proposed parenting plan that is both (1) feasible, given the time and distance limitations present in the case, and (2) fair on its face to both parents.
- The court is likely to favor stability in your child’s life. If you are not the primary custodial parent and are seeking to obtain primary custody over your child, or if the other parent was the one who primarily cared for the child while you and the other parent were together, prepare yourself for an uphill battle. In general, the court will want to minimize any disruptions to the child’s routine in a custody battle. This means a court will want (as much as possible) to keep the child in the same school, around the same friends, and able to participate in the same extracurricular activities. The court will generally, albeit implicitly, favor primary residential custody being with the parent who has traditionally been the primary caregiver of the child.
- The court does not care about most parenting differences. Unless the other parent is engaging in criminal or dangerous activity around the child – operating a methamphetamine lab in his or her basement or taking the child along for gang-related activities – a court is not likely to give much weight to minor differences between the parents. You are not likely to win custody because you make more money than the other parent or because you do not believe in spanking the child whereas the other parent does.
Seek Assistance from an Experienced Arizona Family Law Attorney
It is helpful to consult with an experienced family law attorney prior to your custody hearing(s) and to be represented by counsel during these proceedings. Your attorney can help you focus on those facts and circumstances that will be most convincing to the judge and will be the most persuasive for having the judge award you custody. Above all, your attorney can help you focus on the main objective of your custody hearing: ensuring your child’s best interests are protected and advanced.