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Child Custody
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How Can a Parent Win Custody of a Child?

If you are getting divorce and have children, you probably want to know how to win custody of your kids. The answer is simple, but actually winning custody is more difficult.

Judges make custody decisions based on what is in the best interests of the child. The key to winning custody is to convince the judge that it's in the best interests of your child to award you sole custody or joint custody.

How to Win Custody

Now you know how judges make their decision. But what can you do to persuade the judge that you should have custody? In making custody decisions, judges look at a number of factors, including:

Factors Involving the Parents

  • Which parent is the most suitable for custody based on character, temperament and stability?
  • What is each parent's relationship with the child?
  • What is the educational level of each parent?
  • What child-rearing skills does each parent possess?
  • Does either parent have an illness that may harm the child?
  • Which parent will provide the best home environment?
  • Does the child have stronger emotional ties to one parent?
  • Where has the child been regularly living?
  • What type of extended family relationships exist?
  • What other relationships does each parent have that could affect the child?
  • What is each parent's employment status?
  • What is each parent's financial status?
  • What is each parent's apparent motive for seeking custody?
  • Is either parent unfit to have custody?
  • Which parent is the most likely to allow the child to continue his or her relationship with the other parent and his or her extended family?
  • What is the quality of the schools near each parent's home?
  • If applicable, does the child have special needs that can be better met by one parent?

Factors Involving the Children

  • What is the age and sex of each child?
  • What are the emotional, social, moral, material and educational needs of each child?
  • How well does each child fit into the home environments offered by each parent?
  • What is the interpersonal relationship between each child and each parent?
  • What is the interpersonal relationship between the children?
  • What is the effect on the child of disrupting or continuing the existing custodial arrangement?
  • For children who are old enough and mature enough, what is each child's personal preference?
  • What have professional custody evaluators, independent investigators or other expert witnesses recommended?

The judge is unlikely to make a decision based on a single factor. Instead, he or she will assess the answers to all of these questions and look at other factors that may be relevant. Once the judge has made his or her decision, he or she will explain how the decision was arrived at, and which factors weighed most heavily in the decision.

Tips to Win Custody

In many courts, there is a natural bias to award sole or joint custody to mothers. But regardless of whether you are the mother or father, follow these tips to win custody of your children:

  • Get temporary custody of your children
  • Show that you are actively involved in your children's lives
  • Create a safe, stable and nurturing home environment for your children
  • Don't sabotage your children's relationship with their other parent
  • Be dependable: Be on time to pick up or drop off your kids, and avoid rescheduling or cancelling plans with your children.
  • Live a healthy lifestyle, take care of yourself, drink only in moderation and stop smoking and using illegal drugs
  • Be impartial if you need to discuss the custody negotiations with your children.