There is a saying that goes: when two bulls fight, it’s the grass that hurts. This perhaps captures what happens when parents fight over the custody of a child; it’s the child who suffers. It is, however, never a good thing when a custody contestation is so drawn out that the child ends up feeling torn apart by the two parents.
In fact, deciding who gets the custody of a child and who doesn’t should not be a battle at all. The ideal is that the two parents should sit down and agree on who gets custody based on the best interests of the child. However, the reality is that a good number of custody cases are contested, and sometimes so fiercely that it actually feels like a legal battle between family lawyers.
If your divorce has reached this critical stage, here are several tips on how to win a custody battle.
1. Try to Settle Out of Court
A custody battle is both expensive and emotionally draining. You also never know how the judge will rule. You might think you have a watertight case, but the judge may not see things through your lenses. It is therefore critical that you do all you can to settle the case out of court. You could do this through mediation, or if you are in talking terms with your partner, sit down with them and commit to a decision that serves the best interests of your child.
2. Get Expert Guidance before You Go to War
If you think you can wage a custody war and win on your own, you may have to rethink your position. Forget those divorce and custody TV courts that seem to make settling custody cases so easy. This is life in motion, and the stakes are much higher and real. The issues at hand are complicated and potentially heartbreaking.
Your best course of action is to get a family lawyer to increase your chances of winning the case. He or she will tell you what your chances of a win are before you even go to court. How to win a custody battle often depends on how good your custody case is presented to the court, so a good lawyer is absolutely essential.
3. Keep the Children Out of the Battle
If the only choice you have is to contest the custody of your child in court, do all you can to shield the children from the nastiness of such proceedings. Tone down the conflict, especially when the kids are around; and, by the way, don’t bring them to court with you. Keep them out of the picture concerning the state of affairs in court. You should also resist the temptation to talk nasty about the other parent, and, please, don’t fight with your partner in their presence.
4. Be Objective
The one overriding ingredient behind your custody case is the best interests of your child. Decide which between sole or joint custody will be most beneficial to your child. At the end of the day, you want the best deal for your child. Be objective about this and try as much as possible not to sacrifice objectivity at the altar of personal gratification.
If there is a middle path you can take without imperilling your child’s welfare, by all means, take it. Always remind yourself that the reason you are in court is to get the best deal for your child, and if this includes sacrificing a position you think you are entitled to, go ahead and cede ground.
5. Fight for the Right Reasons, If You Have To
There are valid reasons that make it necessary, nay, a must, to fight for the custody of your child. Such grounds include preventing an abusive parent from harming the child. However, avoid frivolous, self-centred reasons such as an attempt to gain leverage over your partner, especially when it comes to money and property issues from your divorce. If you have to fight, do it fair and square, and for reasons that can stand scrutiny in a court of law.
Just because your spouse cheated on you or is living with another person does not make them a bad parent. Yes, leaving you may have been a pointer to poor judgement and questionable morals, but this does not mean they can’t take good care of your child. Make sure your reasons for pursuing a custody case in court are reasonable.
6. Resist the Urge to Engage in a Tirade with Your Partner
If there is one thing you must do when going through a child custody battle, it is to exercise strict self-control, even when exposed to extreme provocation. You might want to give your partner a piece of your mind by running amok on Facebook and by sending them nasty texts and emails, but remember you are under a microscope, and that moment of temporary insanity when you let him or her have it could come to haunt you in court. It is actually a good idea to keep off social media, and avoid sending ranting emails; neither should you ‘put them in their place,’ especially when there are people who can be called upon to testify against you.
A custody contestation should really not degenerate into a court battle. However, if it does, do all you can to avoid jeopardizing the interests of the child, and even if the court rules against your best case scenario, you can still care for and support your child. At the end of the day, your child’s welfare is all that matters.