Of all of the divorce legal issues that you might end up facing during your marriage dissolution, child custody and visitation may be the most important to you. This is understandable given that the outcome of your dispute can impact not only the amount of time that you spend with your child but also how the arrangement affects your relationship with your child. That’s why as you enter your child custody negotiations or head toward litigation of the matter, you need to know how to aggressively present your case.
What is the child’s best interests standard?
As you try to negotiate a child custody arrangement, you need to keep in mind that any resolution should support your child’s best interests. After all, this is the standard that the court will use when deciding your case if it heads to trial. But how do you tailor your evidence to speak to your child’s best interests?
It starts with understanding what factors go into the best interests determination. This includes:
- Each parent’s physical and mental health
- The financial stability of each household
- Your child’s wishes, especially if they are older
- Any history of abuse or neglect
- Any history of parental substance abuse
- Each parent’s ability to support and encourage a relationship between the child with the other parent
- Each parent’s ability to provide the child with educational and familial connections
Remember, too, that the court is typically free to look at any other evidence that it thinks is relevant to its determination. This means that you’re probably going to have a lot of evidence with which to work.
Presenting evidence that speaks to best interests
So, to effectively present your position, you need to be prepared to put forth persuasive evidence. But what does this evidence entail? It can be wide ranging, but common evidence that is utilized to support a child custody argument includes:
- Mental health records
- Police records
- Educational records
- Witness accounts
- Drug screen results
- Communications with the other parent
If you’re struggling to come up with evidence, you might want to consider asking the court for a child custody evaluation. Here, a third party, usually a mental health professional, will conduct interviews, speak with witnesses, assess records, and observe parenting time in order to generate a child custody recommendation. This evaluator’s report is then shared with the court and is typically given a significant amount of weight.
What about damaging evidence?
In almost every family law case, there’s damaging evidence against each party. So, you should expect to be accused of wrongdoing or unfitness as you enter your child custody dispute. But don’t let that thought paralyze you into inaction. Instead, you just need to keep in mind that the judge will give the evidence the amount of weight that they think is appropriate, so your focus should be on minimizing its impact. You may be able to do this by attacking witness credibility or showing how the behavior in question hasn’t affected your child’s safety and well-being.
Enter your child custody dispute with confidence
We know that you’re stressed as you prepare to fight over custody of your children. You should use that pressure as a motivating factor to build the strongest arguments possible. This, of course, requires having knowledge of the law, which is where the assistance of an experienced family law professional may prove helpful.
With a skilled advocate on your side, you may be able to build the compelling legal arguments that you need to convince a judge to side with you. Hopefully, you can then move on with life with your relationship with your child intact.