Understanding how to get child custody can sometimes be difficult. There may be many different factors to consider, such as the distance between the parents and children, past relational histories between the parties, and financial considerations. 

One of the first things to do is to consider whether or not it’s possible to work with the other parent to come up with a solution. Often times much time and resources can be conserved through cooperation. If this isn’t possible, it may be necessary to take legal action.

In general, here are some tips on how to get custody of a child:

  • File a lawsuit with the court: In some cases, it may actually be necessary to file a lawsuit for a custody order. This can happen for instance if the other party is violating a previous child custody order, or if abuse is involved. Benefits to following the formal court process include enforceability of the documents, court protection, and intervention of legal professionals.
  • Initiate or seek Family Mediation: Family mediation can help the parties to reach an agreement on important issues like custody or support. However, the parties must be able to work cooperatively with one another.
  • Parenting Agreement: If possible, you may be able to create an out-of-court parenting agreement with the other party. These are usually enforceable if written, and can also be submitted to the court for further finalization and approval.
  • Understand Legal vs. Physical Custody: Legal and physical custody are not the same.  A person can have physical custody of a child, but not legal custody, in which case they wouldn’t be able to make certain decisions on behalf.
  • “Child’s Best Interests” Standard: Courts will only approve a custody arrangement if it serves the “child’s best interests.” You should keep this in mind during the process.

You should also note that not all states have the same child custody laws. Thus, you shouldn’t rely on word of mouth or hearsay regarding the custody process; you should do some light research yourself or contact a lawyer for guidance.

What Are Some Things to Avoid When Seeking Child Custody?

There are of course several things that you would want to steer clear of when trying to obtain custody of a child.  For instance:

  • Don’t harass, intimidate, or threaten the other party
  • Don’t seek custody of children simply as leverage to gain advantage over the other party
  • Don’t communicate with the other party if they have a lawyer and you don’t; try to have communications between your respective lawyers
  • Do attend all legal proceedings, court hearings, or meetings regarding custody
  • Do maintain a positive attitude, healthy lifestyle and economic stability, especially if you are already going through tough times

Lastly, you should avoid crossing any boundaries if you are subject to various court limitations. For example, if you only have limited visitation during the week, and are seeking full custody, you shouldn’t try to “jump the gun,” even if the other parent approves. 

You should first have any existing custody orders modified before you adjust your schedule – this will help you avoid legal troubles on your part.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Guidance on Getting Child Custody?

Filing for child custody generally requires the assistance of a child custody lawyer. Even for out of court agreements, it’s generally a good idea to have the agreement reviewed by a lawyer. This way, you can be assured that your interests and the child’s are being met, and also that you won’t be violating any laws or court orders in the process. Your attorney can also represent you during court proceedings if necessary.