If your Ex has custody of your children, and you want it changed, you have to prepare long before your court date.
You should come armed with a host of documents and personal history regarding you and your children, enough to convince a judge that you can handle not just your kids, but that you also have at least tried to maintain a working relationship with your Ex. Before you get too far in the process you should make sure you have the following covered:
1. Make all child support payments. Make sure they have all been made on time without any arrearages. If final custody hasn’t yet been determined, but you have come to an informal agreement with your Ex, bring those records to court.
2. Maintain interactions with your kids and stay in your children’s world. Get to know teachers, friends, attend special events, make yourself available, and known by those in your children’s classes. If you do that, not only are you more likely to gain custody, the transition for everyone will be easier.
3. Make sure you are taking advantage of ALL visitation. Make records of additional days, length of visits, and your activities above your normal visitation.
4. If you plan to win custody, you should have a place for Johnny to live. A closet, corner and a temporary bed may work for weekend visits, but to be custodian requires a room and a permanent set-up. Your child will need personal space. Read “Your Kids Need Their Own Room at Your Place.”
5. Be respectful of their mother, your Ex. Maybe you’ve gotten all the bad breaks, and you feel your Ex has treated you unfairly in every way. Of course those emotions are not uncommon under the circumstances, but the judge can’t see that in you. If she has “run you down” in some way—or numerous ways, the judge will likely see it or figure it out.
6. Be honest with yourself, do you really want custody? Many dads are busy and take on numerous responsibilities. Keeping a child is a huge one and can cause overload, a danger for everyone. You might have to cut back on work, charity, community or church involvement. Can you do that and keep appropriate time for your child? Go in with a plan in mind. If you can handle everything now, tell the judge how. If you need to cut back, give specifics on how you plan to do that.
7. Are you honestly the better parent? Most states require a material and substantial change to have occurred to even consider custody for the other parent. Stated another way, has mom’s parenting gone down and your parenting improved in such a way that you NOW are the better parent? Would the teachers, coaches, parents of other friends, and outside observers agree with you? If you cannot answer these questions positively and truthful, it is time to examine your motives. Feelings aside, you must do what is in the best interest for your kids.
Custody IS possible for men. A change of custody does happen if there are logical and reasonable reasons for doing so. However “your feelings” and even the choice of your children to live with you, are NOT enough to justify a change of custody.
Do your homework, be prepared, count the cost, and have a plan before attempting custody.
What other tips would you add before attempting custody?
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