It has been 11 years since I was awarded full custody of my then, four year old daughter, in my paternity suit. And perhaps the single most often asked question I receive is, “How did you do that?” The question assumes that there was some unknown trick or that the rarity of fathers ending up with custody is somewhat of an abnormality that only occurs with the mother is very unfit. While moms overwhelmingly do receive primary custody, that is not always the case. Good fathers can and do win custody. I will expand on statistics in future posts. For now, these are the ten factors that really made a difference in my final court case.
10. My Ex consistently lied, lied, lied on the stand. If you have not been to family court lately, it’s not like it is in the movies. There is no hand on a Bible to swear on, and I have never seen a judge or attorney prove perjury. That said, you are dealing with professionals who have seen and heard it all before. Now is NOT the time to lie and provable lies can really hurt your case. My Ex lied so much during her testimony that we ended our cross examination early with… “Were you lying to us before, or are you lying to us now?”
9. I hired a really good attorney. You can represent yourself just as you could “technically” operate on yourself. But as you can surmise, neither of these options is recommended for obvious reasons. Additionally, I don’t know of any good attorneys or doctors who would do so. Nor should you. You need an attorney and a very good one.
8. I filed first making me the petitioner. My case was a paternity suit. My Ex’s position was “He wasn’t there in the beginning.” It was a hard argument to prove, considering I filled for paternity. There are slight, subtle benefits to being the petitioner.
7. I maintained stability. It has been 16 years since I filed for paternity. In the four years from the time I filed, till the final case was heard, my residence, home phone number, cell phone number, place of employment, and work phone number stayed the same. In that same period, my Ex moved 7 times and changed her phone number about 20 times.
6. I worked a flexible home job. Being in software sales, my job only requires a good speaking voice and a telephone. Second, I have always been in a position to make my own hours. While my case was pending, I never needed to rely on daycares or babysitters, I was always available for my daughter.
5. I asked for a jury trial. As my case went on, I watched and noticed that my initial judge was showing bias toward giving full custody to mothers. I didn’t buck the system, I acknowledged it for what it was, and asked my attorney to switch to a jury trial. The general public is more objective about giving custody to the better parent.
4. I took my parenting very seriously. I cleaned up my life from the bachelor pad with a pool table, partying life, and roommates. I became a serious parent who took more than 100 hours of parenting classes including infant CPR. I baby proofed the house, bought everything a nursery needed, created a special room just for my daughter and joined the ranks of good fathers complete with an over the shoulder diaper bag.
3. I ran an organized case with lots of evidence. Just as you can’t blame your doctor for your weight gain, you need to realize that your attorney is your guide and spokesperson, but it is YOUR case. I organized files of evidence with items such as pictures, calendars, notes, transcripts, and flip charts. I complied an organized list of witnesses, questionnaires, and how the pieces fit together. I knew 10 times more about my case than my attorney and I worked hard to clearly communicate with him.
2. I brought to court five full completed photo albums (40 pages each double sided). My final court case came to a complete stop for about an hour while the judge, jury and opposing council flipped through hundreds of album pages featuring me with our daughter. Me changing her, me putting her in a car seat, me with my manly diaper bag, me playing with her at the park. You can listen to testimony all day long, from which people can lie (re-read #10), but pictures are very hard to argue with.
1. I was the Better Parent. I believe custody should go to the better parent. One parent is more educated, more flexible in their job schedule, more able provide financially, more emotional available, and more successful at separating feelings of animosity towards the Ex. Any case worker, counselor, judge, or attorney who touches your case or case file should be able to say, “The dad is clearly the better parent here.”
What reasons have you found dads have full custody?
Fred Campos is father to three and primary custodian to his daughter Caitlyn from a previous relationship. Image of Fred & Caitlyn taken in 2004.