When a parent faces disputes over child custody, whether during the divorce proceedings or after custody has been established, the goal is to come out of the disputes successfully. That takes planning and strategy. Here’s what you need to know.
Best Interests of the Child
The “best interests of the child” concept is always front and center in a child custody case. The courts want to know what is best for the child–not for either parent. No matter what strategies are employed in your case, they must be focused on how and why they’re best for the child. If one parent has to move frequently for work while the other can likely stay in one place, providing stability and ongoing access to schools, family, friends, doctors, etc., it could be argued that the latter parent’s home is the best place for the child.
But many factors fall under the best interests of the child. It can include significant concerns such as drug or alcohol abuse, domestic violence, or mental health. Still, as described above, it also looks at whether or not the child will have access to friends, good schools, and good routine medical care. Whatever disputes arise during child custody cases, everything needs to go through the lens of the best interests of the child.
What Other Tactics Can Help My Child Custody Dispute Case?
There are quite a few strategies that can be used to bolster your case. Again, these all contribute to the idea of the best interests of the child.
- Active parent. Parents that are actively involved in their child’s life are going to be viewed more favorably by the courts. That doesn’t necessarily mean someone had to have been assigned the role of a custodial parent during the divorce. Even if the parent is currently the noncustodial parent, providing evidence that they’ve adhered to the visitation schedule, found other ways to keep in communication with the child through phone calls or web visits, volunteered to take the child to medical appointments, attended school functions such as parent-teacher conferences or school performances and sports, and were involved in the child’s extracurricular activities are all vital pieces of evidence. If the parent requesting the change in custody has been paying child support, it helps if they’ve paid the support on time and in full without fail.
- Online presence. The courts will look at the parents’ online presence. If they see posts where one parent denigrates another, threatens violence, or shows generally poor judgment, that can be used against that parent. Keep your social media presence positive, or deactivate it. It’s important to know that there are technology experts who are good at finding posts that have been deleted or deactivated, so it’s best if nothing negative has been posted in the first place.
- Financial conditions. If a parent asks for partial or full custodial custody of the child, they need to demonstrate financial responsibility, even if the other parent will pay child support. A parent that’s in financial trouble or profligate with money could be viewed as a risk to the child.
- Home environment. The courts want to be sure they’re sending a child to a home situation that’s safe, supportive, and secure. Depending on the age of the child, that may require proving there’s adequate child-proofing (gates at stairs, plugs in electrical outlets, etc.). It also means the home is in a reasonably safe neighborhood and is in good living condition (no mold, adequate plumbing, functioning heat and electricity, etc.).
- Room for the child. Especially in cases where someone wants full physical custody, the courts will look at the home to see if there is adequate room. Will the child have their own room? Or if sharing a room is required, how many other children will there be, and what are their ages? If there isn’t currently adequate room, can the parent afford to move into a larger space?
- Don’t lie. The courts are good at telling when someone is waffling or flat-out speaking a lie. For example, if you’ve had some financial setbacks but have righted them and are on track to be financially responsible, own up to that. It will look better to the courts than if you pretend you’ve been fine all along and the other parent’s attorney finds evidence to the contrary.
- Keep extensive records. If you have concerns that the other parent is neglecting or abusing the child, and that’s why you’re requesting custody, it’s essential to have evidence. That can come in the form of medical records that show the child isn’t getting adequate preventive care or begging properly treated when ill or injured; school records showing a decline in achievement; testimony from other relevant parties, including other family members, neighbors, friends, teachers, etc. Even if there’s no sign of neglect, keeping track of your child’s report cards and medical records demonstrates your involvement as a parent.
Bring in an experienced attorney for Chicago child custody matters. The laws are complex, and their knowledge can be invaluable.
What Should I Do if I Need Help Working with a Child Custody Dispute?
Call the Law Offices of Robert Buchanan at 312-757-4833 for a no-obligation free consultation. We understand that your children are among the most essential parts of your life. You want to be sure they’re properly cared for and in a stable, loving home environment. We’ll work with you to develop the case to lead to the best possible outcomes. Call us today, as the sooner we begin working together, the better.