No one knows your child like you do, and you may even feel you know your child better than your own spouse does. This may be what makes it so difficult to imagine losing custody after your divorce. Perhaps you already know that your spouse is going to fight hard against you, and you are uncertain about the best course of action for improving your chances in court.
Putting your best foot forward in front of a judge may seem like common sense, but when your emotions are high, as they often are in child custody matters, you may benefit from some specific guidance. Your attorney can advise you about what to say and the evidence to present, but your personal preparation can make all the difference.
Having the right mind-set
As counterproductive as it may seem, your willingness to co-parent with your ex will be impressive to the court. If your ex comes into court demanding everything and you arrive with a cooperative spirit, a judge may conclude that you have the best interests of the children – not yourself – at heart. You may even have a written plan suggesting an arrangement that will be advantageous to everyone involved.
You can help yourself by being the best parent you can be with the limited custody you may have now. If you have visitation or other access to the children, make sure you take full advantage of it by complying with pickup and drop-off times and enforcing good habits with your children. You may also request an independent in-home custody evaluation to counter any negativity your ex may try to present to the court.
Sometimes, it is the little things that make a big difference. You might be able to impress the court if you are careful about the following:
- Learn as much as you can about California custody laws.
- Keep careful records of your interaction with the kids as well as anything your ex does that may indicate abuse or neglect.
- Remember your ex may be logging your behavior in the same way, so avoid any actions that may bring your good judgment into question, including the use of drugs or alcohol.
- Never vent about your ex to your children or say negative things in their presence.
- Don’t be late for your court date. Arrive prepared, well-groomed and dressed appropriately.
- Speak calmly and politely to the judge, and do not let your ex stir any negative emotions.
Your attorney’s advice will be invaluable, especially when it comes to responding to any exaggerated or untrue claims your ex may make in court. You may also find additional assistance as you prepare for what will undoubtedly be a stressful and overwhelming day.