How to Get Custody of a Child

Get child custody with these helpful tips

Mother and daughter reading book at Christmas
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Noncustodial parents often ask, "How can I get custody?" It's never an easy question to answer, because there are so many factors that go into winning child custody, and each case is different. However, it's not impossible to get custody of a child after the courts have already awarded physical custody to the other parent.

How to Get Custody of a Child

Start with the following tips:

  1. Know the law. Become familiar with the child custody laws in your state. 
  2. Consider hiring a lawyer. Working with an experienced child custody attorney will help to ensure that all filing requirements are met and that your case is well-presented in court.
  3. Be open to a home study. The court may request a formal child custody evaluation, which involves sending an evaluator to your home to see your living arrangements first-hand and speak with you about providing for your child's needs. For many parents, this can be a scary prospect. Try to have an open mind and be yourself during the process.
  4. Provide character witnesses. Select a few key individuals who can speak to your involvement with your child and provide anecdotal evidence of your skills as a parent. Depending on the situation, the judge may speak with each character witness directly or allow them to submit written affidavits.

Factors to Help a Parent Get Child Custody

The court will consider a number of factors that impact each parent's ability to get custody of a child. Some of the most common factors include:

  • The Best Interests of the Child - Courts will consider the best interests of the child when determining who should get child custody.
  • Courtroom Etiquette - Parents who want to get custody of a child should dress appropriately to court and have a calm demeanor.
  • Communication Between Parents - Parents who can discuss a child's upbringing with one another are favorably viewed by courts
  • Documentation - Parents who want to get child custody should be prepared with all of the appropriate documentation, including information on visitation and child support payments.
  • Parental Involvement - Parents who want to get child custody should remain very involved in a child's life and document their level of involvement in court proceedings

Factors that May Prevent a Parent From Getting Child Custody

Likewise, there are a number of factors that may prevent a parent from getting custody of a child. Some of those factors include:

  • Courtroom Outbursts - If parents express anger in court, directed towards the child's other parent or the judge, it could affect a parent's ability to get child custody. It's best to remain calm and be respectful to all parties during a courtroom hearing.
  • Improper Representation - Parents should consider retaining the services of a qualified attorney in their state to help them get child custody. Some parents may be eligible for free or low-cost representation.
  • Poor Preparation - Parents who want to get child custody should be prepared to respond to all questions and concerns during a courtroom hearing. An attorney of your choosing can help parents anticipate questions that might be asked during a child custody battle.

Consider Your Options

In general, it's best if parents can determine appropriate child custody on their own. However, for parents who are unable to communicate about custody, it might be necessary to start a custody case in order to get child custody. Parents interested in getting custody of a child should speak to a qualified attorney in their state.

Edited by Jennifer Wolf.