Tips for winning your custody battle

Contested custody battles are brutal for all concerned — not the least of which is the children involved. Parents, too, find these types of legal tugs-of-war to be jarring and very stressful.

Still, when both parents have tried — and failed — to reach accord on a parenting plan, the custody decision rests with the family law judge. Whether you are the plaintiff or the defendant in this action, you have a compelling interest for the ruling to be in your favor.

The below tips may be useful in building your case when it's time to go to court:

Are you sure court is necessary?

Court battles are expensive. They're also messy and can even be traumatic, especially if the children are old enough to give testimony on their preferences. Your Florida family law attorney might want to make a final overture to your ex's attorney to settle the matter via negotiation and/or mediation.

If and when that final door gets slammed, you will need to prepare yourself (and potentially your children) for court.

Understand factors affecting custody

The court looks at both parents' fitness to rear the children. In the vast majority of cases, it is assumed that children benefit from freely associating with both parents. However, if one parent is a substance abuser or addict not actively in recovery, has a criminal record or other documented parenting lapses, the court can, and likely will, take it into consideration when determining custody.

Act appropriately in court

Think of it this way — this is the glimpse of you that the court will see. The judge makes decisions based on the information available, and how you look and act in court can make or break your custody case. Wearing jeans, showing tattoos or having an outlandish hairstyle will not win you points with the judge. Dress like you were going to a job interview or a worship service. Don't speak out of turn or show visible reactions to the judge's rulings or your ex's testimony.

Be reasonable

If you're asking for sole custody and supervised visitation, be prepared to show supportive evidence that your child would otherwise be harmed if left unsupervised with the other parent. The fact that you're furious because your ex cheated and left the marriage is irrelevant.

The court realizes that the better the parents get along, the better it is for the kids. Therefore, it is looked upon favorably to express a willingness to civilly communicate with one another to facilitate custody exchanges.

Acknowledge you might not get everything you want

Relax. Even if the custody order did not include everything that you sought, it's not the end of the world. The decision may be able to be appealed, and should circumstances significantly change, the custody order can later be modified.

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