Simply wearing the title of "mother", "father", or "grandparent" will not hold weight in the courtroom. Be able to prove that you are the better parent. Aside from a title, you will be expected to define your role in the child's life. Consideration will be given to the amount of "waking time" you spend with your child on a daily basis, so be prepared to discuss what you do on any given day or weekend with the child(ren). Providing an account of meaningful experiences that you have given your child(ren) will only help your cause.
Keep good records
Possessing a strong feeling of love and responsibility for your child is not enough. When preparing for a custody trial, make an effort to document what you do for your child(ren). Be prepared to give an account as to how much financial, spiritual, educational, emotional, and physical support you provide. It may be wise to keep a journal noting instances that you think your attorney or the judge may find helpful. Judges are more interested in what you do, as opposed to hearing an account of what the other party does not do.
Do your homework - literally
If your case involves school aged children, know that questions may arise related to school performance and attendance. Being able to demonstrate a history or pattern of positive involvement in your child's education is a plus. Good indicators include Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) involvement, attendance at parent-teacher conferences, and a record of communication with the school related to your child.
Playing the blame game
Many have heard the saying, "Keep your friends close, but keep your enemies even closer." In custody matters it is important that you not seem overly critical or fault finding toward the opposing party. Both parents have a stake in the outcome of the case. If it appears that you are unwilling to work with the other party or consider his/her needs, the judge may view this negatively. Besides, if the case is not decided in your favor, the other party may be more willing to accommodate your needs if they feel less attacked during the custody process. Remember, it is more about what you do as a parent, and less about what the other parent does not do.
People in your circle
Not everyone who has access to you needs to have access to your child(ren). Far too often, parents are judged by the company they keep. Involvement in numerous or unstable friendships and relationships can negatively impact the way a judge views your ability to provide a safe and stable environment conducive for raising children.
Habits that die hard
In a custody case, the past will return to haunt you. It is not okay to be dependent upon or casually accustomed to drugs and alcohol. Nothing speaks more toward losing a custody case than drug, sexual, and/or physical abuse. Again, these issues speak to the character of the individual, and judges frown heavily upon such negative habits.
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