If your relationship has broken down and there are children involved, the safety, wellbeing and happiness of the children should be your number one priority. If you believe that gaining full or shared custody of your child or children is in their best interests, there are some things you should do to convince a court that you are suitable and willing to secure the child’s wellbeing.
If you believe you should have sole custody, because the other parent is unfit, unsafe or unreliable, it will be up to you to prove why a joint custody arrangement would not be the best option for your children. Read more about this toward the end of this article
In the majority of situations, a court will favour a joint custody arrangement to provide the children involved with the love and care they need from both of their parents. However, if you do not behave in a way that would indicate you are a responsible parent, the court may decide otherwise. Make sure to avoid the following:
No matter the reason for the relationship breakdown, you must avoid talking badly about your ex-partner. This is especially important to avoid in front of any officials or anyone in a position of authority, and in front of your children. Even if the children are asking difficult questions, decide on a non-negative version of events that is suitable for the children to hear and stick with it.
If you want to be seen as the responsible and committed parent you are, make sure you’re on time for every pick-up, drop-off and visit, and never cancel on your children or reschedule time to spend with them. Not only will this reflect poorly on you, it may also have an adverse affect on your children, who are already going through a challenging and stressful situation.
If you use alcohol and drugs, especially in the presence of your children, you are putting them at risk. Even if you avoid misusing substances around your children, the fact that you do, may be documented and shown to a court as a reason that you are not a fit parent.
Proving your suitability to be a parent includes showing your commitment to your children and proving that you parent them in a responsible way. A few steps you can be taking to evidence this, include:
It’s important that you show you are willing to work with the other parent to provide your children with the love and care they need. Unless of course, you believe that communicating with them may put you or your children at risk of harm, you must show a court that you can work together in the interests of your children. If the other party is not willing to communicate with you, this will reflect badly on them, but be sure to try.
Whilst it might be tempting to spend the limited time you have with your children doing fun things, watching movies, playing games and going on exciting days out, it’s essential you show you can also do the everyday things too. Help them with their homework, involve them in appropriate household chores, and if you’re going to buy them presents, make sure you get them useful and needed things – like school shoes – not just toys and games. This will show that you are a suitable all-round parent, taking responsibility for their overall wellbeing.
If you have a court date, or appointments with court ordered organisations, be sure to make a good impression. Show up on time, participate when expected to, and dress and behave appropriately. This may not seem like much, but you need to take every opportunity to show that you are a committed and suitable parent.
Even if you disagree with the courts requests, it is important you show you are committed to being a dedicated parent and abide by their instructions. For example, if the court orders you to take part in parenting classes, take this as an opportunity to show your willingness to comply and your dedication to your children.
If you believe your children will be at risk of harm if left alone with your ex-partner, you will need to provide evidence to the court to demonstrate this.
Find a well-respected and specialist family law solicitor to help you. While this will come at a cost, they will be able to make sure all eventualities are covered, and that the right evidence is presented to secure the best chance of winning sole custody.
In some situations, such as cases involving domestic or child abuse or where social services are already involved, you may be entitled to financial help with legal costs.
If your partner has a criminal record or a history of violent or abusive behavior, keep detailed documentation. This will include a personal log that details all your interactions with them, and their interactions with the children.
If you have paperwork from previous criminal proceedings, or evidence of drug or alcohol misuse, this may be useful too, although a good family law solicitor will be able to get access to records to support your claims.
(It’s important to never make unsubstantiated claims. Even if you’re telling the truth, if you can’t prove it, it may appear that you are trying to gain custody of your child or children by wrongly or unfairly accusing your ex-partner of something you can’t prove.)
If you’re concerned that you don’t have enough evidence to convince a court of your ex-partner’s risk level, or unsuitability to have unsupervised contact with your children, you could contact a private investigator.
The team at Delta 74 Private Investigations have been undertaking cases involving child protection for many years, and will always prioritise the safety of the children involved, working with you to get the evidence you need in court.
Whether your children are already having unsupervised visits, and you’re concerned they are not being cared for appropriately, or your ex-partner is trying to establish his right to parental visits, let us help you. Contact us today to find out more about our child protection surveillance services.