How to Win a Child Custody Battle

Tips for Single Parents Going Through a Child Custody Battle

Mom and her daughter smiling together.
Know what to expect when you're facing a difficult child custody battle. Photo © Westend61/Getty Images

A child custody battle may very well be the most stressful experience a parent can endure, especially when you don't quite know what to expect. Use these tips to plan your case and increase the likelihood that you'll be able to achieve a positive outcome:

Child Custody Battle Basics

Even if you're not the one making it a 'battle,' you have to go into court with a solid plan of action. This means doing your homework, hiring an experienced and qualified family law attorney, and taking the time to understand the child custody laws in your state.

Above all, do not take for granted that the judge will see your case from your point of view. The court's sole purpose is to do what is best for your child, and demonstrating that you share that focus can go a long way toward helping your case.

Avoid a Custody Battle if You Can

Before you dive into a long and drawn out child custody battle, ask yourself if it could be avoided. Parents interested in obtaining sole or 'full' custody often end up in court, engaged in a difficult child custody battle because neither party is willing to compromise to reach an agreement. In such cases, the court will ultimately determine who will win child custody—and the outcomes can be surprising. Therefore, it is important to consider whether a compromise is possible and whether sharing joint custody could actually be in your child's best interests. If, after careful consideration, you're still convinced that filing for sole custody is your best or only option, you'll need to prepare yourself for what lies ahead.

Factors Considered in Winning a Child Custody Battle

Parents interested in the winning a child custody battle should be well prepared for the child custody hearing. During the hearing, the court will consider the following factors:

  • The better parent standard - Parents involved in a child custody battle should understand that what makes one parent 'better' in the eyes of the court may not align with your point of view.
  • Documentation - Each parent has the opportunity to share with the court any relevant documentation that has been collected. 
  • Proper court etiquette - This may seem superficial, but the court will generally consider each parent's appearance in court. This includes the way you dress for your court appearance, as well as your attitude and demeanor during the hearing. 
  • Communication between the parents - If you want to win your child custody battle in court, demonstrate to the judge that you're willing to get along with your child's other parent.
  • The best interests of the child - Ultimately, the court will determine who will win the child custody battle based on the child's best interests. This means doing what is best for the child, as opposed to what may be most convenient for the parents.

Visitation During Child Custody Battles

Parents who are not granted primary custody during a child custody battle will often be entitled to generous visitation rights. Courts generally believe that a relationship with both parents serves the child's best interests. Therefore, it would be in your best interests to stay involved in your child's life no matter what becomes of your child custody dispute.

Many parents also find that it is helpful to develop a formal parenting plan so that each parent knows what to expect.

Edited by Jennifer Wolf.