Winning a custody battle as a father is a tough process but not impossible, not at all.
For centuries, men were viewed as the family breadwinner and the child’s protector so they were normally granted child custody.
Unfortunately these days, 2/3 of child custody awards are granted to mothers and 1/3 to fathers.
More recently though, In the U.S. mothers automatically get custody of the child unless there are legal reasons for not doing so.
It is a stereotype but statistics reveal how this has manifested itself in family courts where about 90% of women are granted custody. This is especially the case with children who are still at their tender age.
Either parent can file for child custody and as a father, you will want to be proactive and stay ahead of any surprises, to win your case.
To prepare adequately for a win, it is important to understand what a judge considers before granting custody to any parent. The court considers the best interests of the child in terms of:
- The ability to provide for the needs of the child.
- The mental health of the parents.
- Living arrangements.
- The home environment and parents’ caretaking ability.
- Relationship of the child with the parent.
- Historical cases of neglect or abuse.
- Child or children’s best interests.
How to Win Custody Battle as A Father
As a newly single father you want to improve the chance of winning by showing the court that you are responsible, and have the ability to care for and raise the child.
Some proven winning practices for fathers are:
Collaborate with The Other Parent
Try as much as you can to collaborate with her on matters of raising your child. The court will always favor the parent that puts the child’s well being first.
It is worthwhile to always remember, you are not waging war against your spouse but rather fighting for the best interests of the child.
If you are too preoccupied with revenge or you want to teach the mother a lesson, you might lose your case. Show the willingness to work together and to compromise regardless of whether the mother is welcoming or not.
Hire the Right Family Lawyer
A good attorney will guide you on winning strategies, what to do, and what not to.
An experienced family lawyer is also well-versed with stereotypes around men and parenting and will convince the court to look at the real issues at hand instead of stereotypes.
An experienced lawyer will guide you when there is a need to compromise, and also on which type of custody is best suitable for your case.
I’ve been asked in the past, is it better to hire a female attorney that will fight harder against my ex?
I have seen this work before, as women can sometimes see through a mothers fake tears and false claims.
But, I have also seen female lawyers fall hook, line and sinker for the tricks of a manipulative narcissist and virtually work against her own client.
I would be careful betting on any strategy other than a good solid proven track record in family court.
Be Honest and Realistic
In all your dealings in and out of court, be factual and honest.
You should always remember that giving false information may attract an offense of perjury. Therefore, you should state things as they are without being biased whatsoever.
Also, don’t try to present yourself in a false image with unrealistic things and expectations.
Accept that you have some limitations and that is so too of the other parent. Don’t try to behave in a manner that tells the court that you are perfect and the other parent is not.
You are not competing with the other parent for a win-lose, but to promote the interests of the child or children.
Keep up On the Finances
As a concerned father, you should always ensure your childrens costs are being met without being obliged by the court.
Make arrangements with the other parent on how you will share the financial burden of the child on matters regarding healthcare, education, entertainment, and general welfare.
This is one step towards winning your case as a father.
You should do it out of love for the child, and not in preparation for the win. But it will be a bonus in court, when the judge sees you stepping up and taking care of these issues on your own.
Solidify Your Relationship with The Child
If your relationship with the child is in tatters, you may end up losing your case.
Try to maintain a positive relationship by talking regularly and checking on their progress. Always make an effort to call and communicate as you build a good bond.
When talking, don’t discuss the mother’s issues but rather focus on things that would make them feel loved and cared for.
Focus instead of the good things going on and upcoming events or holidays. Children value such events and positive attention. where possible, make an effort to take them out for fun if circumstances allow.
Keep Records of Everything
In whatever you do, document, document, document…
Keep things clear and accurate by maintaining a child custody journal and having it handy for reference when needed by your attorney.
Keep track of everything that happens daily between you and the other parent, and between you and the child.
Valuable records to keep when it comes to child custody include visitation times, support and welfare expenses, and notes pertaining to your interactions.
Apart from helping you remember the occurrences when presenting your story, it will also help in keeping you organized throughout the hearing.
Show Respect to The Other Parent and The Child’s Wishes
Respect is paramount in everyday undertakings. It will also contribute to gaining custody.
When you respect the other parent, you also show the child or children everything will be okay.
You may have grown apart and now hold different opinions regarding the care of the child but you should remain civil and give suggestions and better ideas without being hostile.
Be decent in your communication with the other parent regardless of how you feel about her, and you will likely see her treat you the same in time.
I always recommend this as a first step in a custody case.
Alternative dispute resolution like mediation, can be much more productive and much much cheaper in custody battles since you will not rely entirely on the court to make decisions for you.
In less-adversarial relationships, mediation has proven to benefit both parties and is always in the interests of the child.
Mediation can result in a win-win where there is no loser.
Even after a hard fought court battle, you will still have to work with your ex in making decisions that affect the child.
You might as well start working together right now so you can draft a child custody agreement that is in everyone’s best interests.
Control Your Emotions
Emotions can ruin your case if you don’t exercise control.
In circumstances where the mother is hostile to you, cool your temper and act wisely. This is not only while in the courtroom but especially when outside the court.
Do not let yourself be provoked, as this is an easy win for her in court.
Her lawyer may be instructing her to push every button you got, to elicit a prescribed response.
The last thing you want is child services getting involved because you responded childishly to her lawyer’s baiting.
Unfortunately, this is part of the child custody game, where parents have to convince the court they are better for the children by pointing out the other parents flaws and shortcomings.
You should be prepared for this process from the start.
You may hear a knock at the door, and see that child/family services want to do a wellness check.
You may receive a request from the court or opposing counsel to submit a drug test.
Remember, the court has no prior knowledge of either party, so they have to rely on the word of others to start forming a legal opinion of you and your ex, and award custody.
If possible try to, not only be prepared for these meetings, but when possible, initiate them yourself, so you are in control of the situation a bit more. This does wonders for your peace of mind.
Dressing for the court is another step in the right direction. You want to create a good impression and this, remember, will remain permanent in the eyes of the court.
You should wear neutral color clothing such as a grey or navy-blue suit or just a decent shirt with a tie at minimum.
You want to look professional, without looking like it’s just to impress the judge. Jeans and a t-shirt are not acceptable, but a three piece suit or tuxedo is also unnecessary.
Avoid Talking Negatively About the Mother
It seems counterintuitive to praise the person you are trying to convince the court is an unfit parent but it is very important in child custody cases to walk that fine line.
We want the court to know we are better for the children, without completely trashing our ex…
Whether in or outside the court, you should try as much as possible to maintain a decent tone about your ex-spouse.
It doesn’t matter who you are talking to. You never know, they may become her witness against you and that would be a wrong turn for your case.
In addition to that, when talking with your child or children, avoid anything negative against the mother.
If children are ever called to testify in court, they may put you in a bad spot if you have been talking ill about their mother.
Talk with Other Fathers
If you know a father who has been through the custody case, you may want to pick some tips as you prepare yourself for the battle.
It doesn’t matter whether they won or lost. You can learn from their failures and improve on their weaknesses.
It is important to get a feel for the landscape you are entering, the ups and downs, the highs and the lows.
The sooner you can get familiar and (for lack of a better word) “comfortable” with this environment, the sooner you can start to master it
If you don’t know of anyone within your reach, you should consult your lawyer to help you identify one or more groups of fathers who have recently been through a child custody case or search online for forums and websites with anyone who might be willing to share their story.
When searching online, try to find others in your state and even your county, to get more accurate information pertaining to your local area.
Don’t wait for circumstances to unfold and then be forced to play catch-up. This will put you in a defensive mindset and hurt your chances to be proactive.
If there is a need to save, you should do so in advance to avoid getting yourself bankrupt in the process of battling a custody case.
It is wise to be realistic and where possible, try to cut down on costs as much as you can. As the saying goes, “failure to plan is a plan to fail.”
Stay Involved in All Affairs Regarding the Child
One of the best ways to show you should have majority custody of the child is to be involved in their affairs.
Be sure to receive all notes from school to check on their performance and progress. Don’t miss parent meetings, or school functions. Help with homework, obviously, but also keep track of weekly assignments.
Plan celebrations and holidays as usual, even if the other parent is already making plans. Separate birthday parties and graduations are not unheard of, and go a long way to building memories for you and the kids, and creating a tight bond.
Doing all these will give you a better edge to negotiate for custody. You bring yourself to the level of the mother and with that, you are bettering your chances of winning.
You should have a plan to win. As a father, you have more to prove to the court, unlike the mother who may be perceived to be a natural caregiver.
The court will only grant you custody if you are able to take better care of the child. Therefore, you should always display the above best practices in and outside of the court.