How to get joint custody
It's a good idea to understand how to get joint custody before going to court. One of the most important things to remember is custody decisions are meant to be based on the best interests of the child.
Reasons for a joint custody case
Divorce is the most common reason to file a joint custody case. But there are also other reasons, such as:
- A legal separation
- Changing a sole custody order to joint custody
- Unmarried parents who both want to be involved in raising their child
If one parent already has custody, you'll likely have to give the judge a good reason for changing the arrangement.
What courts consider when deciding a joint custody case
A judge will look at many different factors when deciding if joint custody is in the best interest of the child. Whether or not both parents want joint custody often plays a big role in that decision.
Other factors that may play a role can include:
- Whether one parent has ever been convicted of domestic violence. In some states, this can make joint custody almost impossible.
- How well the two of you can communicate and cooperate.
- The amount and quality of time each of you spent with your child beforehand.
- How much time each of you will have to care for your child going forward. For example, does one of you travel a lot for work?
- The child's needs.
- The child's preference, which carries more weight the older they are.
- What kind of home environment each of you can provide.
If you're trying to modify an existing custody agreement, a judge may also look at things like prior visitation history. For example, did the custodial parent allow visitation as scheduled? Did the noncustodial parent take advantage of all visitation opportunities?
How to help your joint custody case
The goal of joint custody is to give your child stability and the love and care of two parents. Many courts agree joint custody is usually best for a child.
If both of you can show involvement in your child’s life, and are able to cooperate with each other, you have a good argument for joint custody.
You’ll also need to show the judge you are able to care for your child. Some of the evidence you can use to support this includes:
- A plan for how your child will get care while you’re working.
- Information about your home and how much space it has for your child, like a bedroom and place to play.
- Proof you can provide important needs like food, clothing and medical care.
- Information about your child’s school, teacher, friends and schedule. This shows that you know your child and are involved in their life.
- Proof that you’re both mentally and physically able to care for your child. If necessary, you can get medical evaluations to support this.
You may also want to include a statement saying that joint custody won’t change your child’s current schedule.
Since the factors courts consider can vary by state, you may want to learn which are most important in your state. You can usually find these by searching online for "best interest of the child" and your state. A child custody attorney can also help you put together a strong case.
Making joint custody work
Once you get joint custody, the best way to make it work is to remember that it’s about what’s best for your child. So keep communication open and civil, be realistic in setting schedules, and keep your promises.