A judge makes his or her decision awarding custody based on the “best interest of the child”.
So if you’re involved in a child custody case or about to be, here are three things you should keep in mind as you approach this often difficult process.
- Know what a judge looks for to see your child’s “best interest” being met. The most essential items are:
- A safe, clean home to live in
- Adequate supervision during before and after school times and on weekends
- Good food and clothing
- Emotional support from you, your immediate or extended family, friends of the family and your child
- A track record showing you have been taking care of the child before this case
- A home free of domestic violence and abuse
- A parent who doesn’t abuse drugs or alcohol
- Prove you are the better suited parent if you and your ex are both seeking full custody. You’ll need to show these things:
- You are able to meet your child’s needs (and have done so in the past)
- You have a positive relationship with your child
- And why it would be worse for your child to live with the other parent
Be very careful on that last part, this is not a time to badmouth your ex in front of the judge. Instead, you need to have reasons why it would be bad for your child to stay at the other parent’s home. Evidence that will satisfy a judge would include if your ex has any drug or alcohol problems, if your ex works long hours and won’t be able to be at home or provide childcare while they are at work, if your ex hasn’t had much of a care-taking role in the child’s life so far, and if your ex has recently introduced the child to a new significant other who lives in his or her home.
Think about family members and friends who would be good witnesses to your ability to parent and care for your child. You can ask them to testify in the courtroom or provide a written statement. If they are unwilling to come, your lawyer can file for a subpoena to require them to speak in the courtroom.
- Be ready for disagreement. If the judge hears different stories from you and your ex that don’t line up, he or she may involve a neutral third party to get a better picture. So if you claim your ex abused you in front of the kids and your ex says you have a drug problem and work too many hours to be at home, this person will work to get the full picture correctly. A judge can select a Guardian ad litem (GAL) or a probation officer to be a neutral fact gatherer in the custody decision. You can also file a motion asking the judge to appoint a GAL if your ex asks for custody or makes false statements about you.
The GAL will interview you, your ex, and other people who know your child including extended family, friends of the family, and teachers. They may also talk to your child. In a written report, the GAL will share this information with the judge and must make a recommendation to the judge of who they think the child should live with. Judges may not agree with the GAL, but they often do.
Rachel Hewett Firm has the family law attorney in Plano, TX to help you get custody of your child. Call us today at (972)424-6069 or (940)387-2277 to schedule your free consultation.