I’m actually undefeated in contested child custody trials in my career and just helped win custody for another gentleman/client in the last couple of months (so I know what I’m talking about). Of course to be ‘real’ I’m surely attempting to NOT waste a year or two heading towards contested trials when certain clients have BAD cases and frankly it’s rarer than one might think that there is actually a battle over who’s custodial parent (majority time parent and decision-maker). That said, if our firm has approximately 100 active family law (divorce or child custody) cases pending at any one time I’d estimate that typically 5 cases are full-on contested, custody matters.
Here’s how you can put yourself in a great position to WIN:
- Facilitate the ‘Other’ Parent’s Relationship with the Kids. This is far and away the most critical factor in custody cases and yet it’s often a tough needle to thread because basically you’re talking about promoting/supporting the other parent’s relationship with your kids while your relationship with that other parent might be breaking down simultaneously (divorce). But, this is a specific factor in Illinois child custody law and I guarantee you judges have this question foremost in their heads, “If I give custody to parent X, is she going to promote parent Y’s relationship with their daughter?” I nearly always ask one or both parties when they’re testifying to talk about the other parent’s strengths because if you have a parent who can’t even say 1 supportive thing about the other parent do you really think he’s going to support mom’s parenting time going forward?
- Be Involved in Your Kid’s Life (what’s your track record?). This is often a key factor I consider when advising a client regarding his/her likelihood of success in a custody battle. You need to know the teachers, doctors, and coaches who are working with your children. You need to attend (and have a history of attending) the conferences, appointments, and games. Perhaps you’re attendance is less than 100% but if it’s nearly non-existent then you’re not winning custody and you likely shouldn’t even try to win custody.
- Have a Support System (frequently extended family). I typically want 3 types of witness at a custody trial: 1) The party; 2) Objective 3rd-party like teacher/coach/church leader; 3) Extended family member, close support system person. We obviously can’t control the family we’re born into but a Court still loves to hear from a grandparent or sibling of the parent who’s a major, supporting influence to a parent and a major, supporting influence to the kids too. I have a great memory of a strong, Irish grandmother being a critical witness on behalf of a client of ours in some successful custody-related litigation a few years back and have a case right now where our client’s parents are a major part of the kid’s life and will help him win custody in his case too.
- Education Matters (particularly in minority or lower-income households). First, lets understand that judges are lawyers and lawyers have a lot of education so I think there’s surely some pro-education bias in all situations. Second, I have observed that in cases with non-white clients or in lower-income households generally that judges REALLY want to see who is the parent who will or won’t promote education as an important factor to a child’s future. We just won custody for a guy last month and the ‘education issue’ was the reason why…when mom had custody of the 13-year-old daughter the daughter missed 50% of school days. The court made a custody change to our client.
- Parental Maturity Matters (child discipline). I’m not saying that the harshest discipline wins, but, I am saying the parent with a structure and plan for discipline wins. I’ve seen more than a few times where a parent is too soft and just wants to be a friend of their child. I helped a guy win custody of his son 2-3 years ago where the mom still lived with her parents, was way too emotional, and was simply unwilling to really PARENT.
A child custody award is an IMPORTANT deal that can really change the trajectory of a kid’s life. It’s not fun while you’re in it but it can be worth the fight oftentimes. We can help.
How can I serve you? The initial consultation is always free: