A child custody battle can be one of the most taxing experiences any Sugar Land, TX, parent undergoes. On top of not knowing what to expect, you have no idea what the outcome will be. Working with an experienced divorce attorney can ease your stress and prepare you for court proceedings.
Ask a Divorce Attorney in Sugar Land, TX: 7 Tips to Help Get Custody
1. Focus on Your Parental Duties
A judge will look favorably at parents who actively engage in their children’s lives. It’s important you continue to focus on your parental duties even as you and your ex separate. This means staying involved with all care activities, including:
- Helping with homework
- Driving to and from activities
- Being present during bath time
- Changing diapers
- Helping children dress
You should also start keeping a calendar or journal to document who manages different responsibilities within the family home. Document who attends extracurricular activities, school meetings, and medical appointments. Also, note any dates you traveled for work.
2. Keep Your Children First
As a parent, your number one obligation is to keep your children safe. Avoid exposing them to a new friend or partner too early and don’t allow overt displays of affection from any adult who isn’t already a family member. Most courts know children experience a range of emotions when their parents find someone new.
If you are dating again, do so only when the children are with your ex. This allows you to properly devote your attention to the kids. Have dinner, take walks outside, or read books together. If you spend more time with someone else than your children, or if a new partner is always present when you do see the kids, you will struggle to convince the courts your children come first.
3. Consider Where Your Children Want to Live
It’s perfectly appropriate to ask your children where they want to live, but don’t give them any coaching on the issue. Likewise, you must remain neutral when they give their response. Your children should know you support them in all situations. Showing your children’s desires are more important than your own will help earn the judge’s respect and build a trusting relationship with your kids.
4. Be Flexible With Your Schedule
You should maintain a flexible schedule so you can switch weekend or weekday visitation with your ex if they request it. This eases stress on your children and shows you favorably to the courts. When the judge asks why you should be awarded custody, you can confidently say your schedule is built around your children’s needs.
5. Cooperate With Your Ex
You may feel immense anger at your ex, but it is critical you always treat them with respect. Judges do not appreciate rude or aggressive actions against another parent.
With that said, your separation will be easier if you compromise and cooperate with your ex at every given chance. Even if they are narcissistic, overly emotional, or otherwise difficult to deal with, compromise allows both of you to raise your children in a mentally healthy environment. Likewise, the judge will see you are trying to rise above the common pitfalls of separation and do what is best for your children.
6. Behave Responsibly
The judge needs to know the children will be safe while in your case. If you behave irresponsibly by drinking to excess, abusing drugs, or leaving young children unsupervised, these acts will be used against you during the custody hearing. Your ex will then gain the advantage, meaning your behavior must be above reproach at all times. You can ensure this by avoiding the following:
- Acting recklessly on the weekends
- Posting questionable photos on social media
- Drinking when the children are with you
- Ignoring your need for mental or emotional support from a trained counselor
Your ex may try to describe you as an unsuitable parent even if you behave responsibly at all times. The key is in giving them nothing to substantiate such allegations. Your divorce attorney in Sugar Land, TX can strategize ways to refute these claims and show the court who you really are.
7. Ask for an In-Home Evaluation
Custody battles often involve a lot of he said/she said allegations. You may achieve an advantage and prove your parental fitness by asking for an in-home evaluation with a member of the court. They will assess the environment and perhaps ask questions about how you raise the children. A report will then be crafted and submitted to the judge.
This initiative can place you in a position of power. You’ll have the chance to properly clean and prepare your home. In addition, asking for an evaluation now rather than waiting for one to be ordered by the judge shows your willingness to cooperate with the court.
Custody hearings can be stressful, but you likely have more control over the outcome than you realize. To illustrate, you can prepare for these hearings by staying focused on your parenting duties, putting your kids before a new love interest, and listening to where they want to live. It’s equally important to cooperate with your ex and build a safe home environment where the children will thrive.