How To Win Your Child Custody/Visitation Case
In the free reports I discussed the five biggest mistakes men make in Family court and why men lose in family court. Now I would like to switch from the negative to the positive and discuss how to WIN your child custody/visitation case. However, before we can have this discussion we need to first define the term "winning" as it relates to Family court. Unlike an NFL game where one team wins and the other loses (overtime scenarios included) Family court operates much differently. In fact, the entire family law system is designed towards encouraging the parties to make agreements. It is the courts belief that a settlement agreement on any/all issues is WIN WIN.
Unfortunately not every case ends with an agreement. Wherefore, the court has additional tools to either help the parties make an agreement or make specific orders based on their own findings consistent with the best interest of the children. Such tools include: multiple mediation sessions, custody evaluations, Psych. evaluations, appointment of a guardian ad litem, mandatory settlement conferences and even family counseling. Bottom line is: Failing to make an agreement is both expensive and time consuming. Wherefore absent an agreement, winning in family court can be very elusive ultimately leading to a VERY subjective decision by the Judge.
Finally, before we list the tips to winning your custody/visitation case please keep in mind that if no agreement is reached on a specific parenting plan the court (Judge) will decide the matter based on the following criteria and findings provided in a thorough report and recommendation by a guardian ad litem, mediator and/or custody evaluator:
• The parent's relationship with the children.
• The parent's employment status, work hours and availability to care for children.
• The parent's child-raising skills.
• The parent's physical and mental health. (No drug/alcohol abuse and/or Domestic violence issues)
• The parent's motive for seeking custody of the child.
• The parent's ability to encourage a healthy relationship with the other parent and extended family.
• The parent's personality, disposition and ability to raise a child. (How do the kids feel about dad)
Here are some tips to help you win your Custody/Visitation case.
1. Write a clear and specific parenting plan - This plan can be submitted to the court and/or used in mediation. It should clearly tell the court what you want. Remember, this is not the best parent test. The courts primary concern is the best interest of the children.
2. What works is more important than equality. - Insisting on what is "equal" such as 50/50 time sharing is not always in your best interests. Ultimately, the most important criterion by which to evaluate a custody arrangement is what works for your children, you and your spouse. Always think in terms of what meets the needs of the entire family.
3. Consider the needs of the children - Your number one concern is to make sure each child has a parenting plan that nurtures growth into a happy, healthy, and productive adult. Consider the age of each child and individual their temperament and flexibility and how well each of them deals with change. Divorce subjects children to trauma, no matter how well managed and peaceful it may be. Your kids will be afraid, and may feel that they are losing one parent.
4. Negotiate in good faith - Whether in discussion with the mediator, guardian ad litem, custody evaluator or your spouse (former spouse) always be reasonable, soft spoken and negotiable. Never be argumentative or overly defensive. If there is an issue/proposal that is preventing an agreement then re-evaluate its importance and revise if necessary. That said, if you strongly believe in a certain aspect of your parenting plan and the mother is not in agreement then move on to the issue, subject and agree to search for a reasonable compromise.
5. Attend all school activities - In as much as possible attend parent-teacher meetings, assemblies, school plays, and musicals. Try to interact with your child's teacher and office support staff in an ongoing manner. Keep record of all the activities that you attend.
6. Attend doctors visits - Be the parent who takes your child to the doctor and dentist. This will help support that you are a nurturing parent, plus provide witnesses that will testify that you are the parent who brought the children in most often.
7. Take family vacations - Take your children on vacations and outings to show that you spend quality time with your children. If possible take pictures and keep mementos for extra documentation.
8. Make a list of witnesses - Get witnesses who have observed you interact with your child over a long period of time to support that you are a good parent. This includes relatives, teachers, doctors, child-care workers, neighbors, and friends.
9. Do what you have agreed to do. - Many Father's go to great links in court to get a good custody/visitation agreement and then fail to perform the agreements. Parenting plans do change over time as the children get older, schedules change, extracurricular activities but it's very important to perform what you have agreed to do. If changes need to occur then open a dialogue with the Mother to discuss necessary changes. By the way, failing to perform a parenting plan is the #1 reason a parent returns to court seeking modification.
10. Keep a journal - Whether you are just starting a family law case or have been in court many times, go to the nearest Rite Aide and buy a notebook or journal! Record everything that happens with regards to the children and their schedules. Make a note of times and dates of significant events, conversations, statements, incidents in the lives of the children and the Mother. A journal could be very helpful to you in the future if it becomes necessary to return to court.
11. Avoid verbal and physical conflict with the mother - You may be the best Father in the world BUT if there are domestic violence allegations/incidents (which can include threats), drug and/or alcohol abuse issues or any other criminal conviction your chances of gaining custody or increasing visitation time share can become very difficult. Even false allegations of DV and drug and alcohol allegations are hurtful and can restrict and/ or delay your custody/visitation time until the court determines the matter. Be careful not to get into heated arguments with the Mother. Be VERY careful!
12. Be careful of social media. - Posting pictures, statements even likes and dislikes can be problematic when involved in a custody case. I have recently had cases where social media post have been submitted as evidence. Common sense is required.
13. Establish a formal line of communication - I am a big believer in e-mail communication with the Mother. E-mail can be used to notify, alert and instruct the other parent. It is also a written record of all communication including subject matter, nature of and reason for such communication. Again be careful of what you say and how you say it! E-mail's can also be submitted to the court. Unless you have a great relationship with the Mother I highly recommend that you not use cell phones as your primary method of communication. However, giving a cell phone to your older children to use to communicate with you is great idea. Skype calls to children are also a good way to communicate when you're a substantial distance away.
14. Be respectful of mediators, guardian ad litem's, custody evaluators and juvenile court social workers - If you have contact with a mediator, custody evaluator or GAL or any other court official always remember that these individuals can have a great impact on your case. The court will consider their report and recommendations when making custody/visitation orders.
15. Don't make negative statements about the Mother. - Mediator's, guardian ad litem's and custody evaluator's really dislike trash talking about the other parent. In fact, it almost seems natural for a parent to convince court officials how bad the other parent is. This is a huge mistake and can really hurt your case. Truth is the court sees two good parents coming to court trying to work out a parenting plan. The court automatically presumes and believes the best of both parties. Now, it may very well be that the mother is bi-polar, AB personality disorder or any number of other personality or behavior problems BUT unless such a disorder has been properly diagnosed by a doctor the court may view your statements as an attempt alienate the children from the affection of the Mother. Wherefore unless the mother has actually done something that significantly compromised the immediate health safety and welfare of the children I would not mention her odd behavior. However if the mother has a drug problem (prescription or illicit) is an alcoholic or has been convicted of a criminal offense I would mention it in a very factual, non judgmental way.
Finally, there is one last tip critical to winning your Fathers Rights custody case. Whether you are a first timer in family court or have been to court numerous times, whether you have an attorney or have chosen to represent yourself...you are going to need help and guidance! You do not necessarily need an attorney but you definitely need to learn how the family law system works. More specifically you are going to need a person whom you can consult with, ask questions, discuss problems and form strategies. Someone that can guide you step by step through your case both in and out of the courtroom.
There is no "one size fits all" solution to any Father's rights case. Every case is different and requires individual analysis and discussion of all the issues and a special custom strategy developed to resolve the issues. It is for that very reason that I created the Advocate Plans. The Advocate Plans are a personal relationship me as your step by step legal advisor. Wherefore I would highly recommend that you click on the links below to learn more about the Father Rights Survival Guide and the Advocate Plans. They are very helpful whether you have an attorney or wish to represent yourself. They truly are the best legal assistance any Father could ever receive!
To read more about the Advocate Plan, click here.
To find out more about the Fathers Rights Survival Guide, click here.
To have a Child Support Evaluation done, please click here.