How to get Child Custody – An Essential Guide

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As a parent, one of the most important decisions you will make is who gets custody of your child or children. Whether you are going through a divorce or separation, or simply need to establish custody arrangements, the process can be complex and emotional. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore various strategies and methods that can help you get custody of your child. 

First we suggest to read through the different types of custody. These are: Sole Custody, Joint Custody and Split custody. With this out of the way here are our thoughts on how you can get custody for your child without a big mess. 

  1. Negotiate Informally One of the simplest and most cost-effective ways to establish custody arrangements is to negotiate informally with the other parent. This can involve having a calm and open discussion about your respective needs and concerns, and working together to find a solution that is in the best interests of your child. However, it is important to remember that informal agreements are not legally binding and can be difficult to enforce if one party does not uphold their end of the agreement.

  2. Consider Mediation If you and the other parent are having difficulty coming to an agreement on custody arrangements, mediation may be a helpful option. In mediation, a neutral third-party mediator facilitates a discussion between both parties and helps them work towards a mutually acceptable solution. Mediation can be a more cost-effective and less stressful option than going to court, and may also help preserve the relationship between the parents for the benefit of the child.

  3. Explore Alternative Dispute Resolution Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods such as arbitration and collaborative law can also be effective options for resolving custody disputes outside of court. In arbitration, a neutral third-party arbitrator makes a binding decision on the custody arrangement. In collaborative law, both parties work with their own attorneys and other professionals to reach a mutually beneficial agreement. These methods can be more flexible than going to court, and may also help preserve the relationship between the parents.

  4. Prepare for a Custody Hearing If you are unable to come to an agreement through negotiation or ADR methods, a custody hearing may be necessary. It is important to be prepared for the hearing by gathering all relevant documents and evidence, such as school records, medical records, and witness statements. It may also be helpful to have an experienced family law attorney on your side to help navigate the legal process and present your case effectively.

  5. Focus on the Best Interests of the Child Throughout the custody process, it is important to remember that the focus should always be on the best interests of the child. This means putting aside personal differences and working together to create a stable and nurturing environment for the child. It also means being willing to compromise and make sacrifices for the benefit of the child.

Types of Custody

When seeking custody of a child, it’s essential to understand the different types of custody arrangements available. There are two main types of custody: physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody refers to the amount of time the child spends with each parent, while legal custody refers to the ability to make decisions about the child’s upbringing, such as education, healthcare, and religion.

Sole vs. Joint Custody

Parents seeking custody may be awarded either sole or joint custody. Sole custody means that one parent has full custody of the child, while joint custody means that both parents share custody of the child. In some cases, joint custody may be awarded even if one parent has primary physical custody.

Factors Considered in Custody Decisions

When deciding custody arrangements, the court considers several factors, including the child’s best interests, the child’s relationship with each parent, each parent’s ability to provide for the child’s needs, and the child’s preference (if the child is old enough to express a preference).

Preparing for Court

Gathering Evidence

To increase your chances of success in a custody battle, it’s important to gather evidence to support your case. This may include witness testimony, medical records, school records, and financial documents.

Creating a Parenting Plan

A parenting plan is a written agreement that outlines the custody and visitation arrangements for the child. Creating a comprehensive parenting plan can help demonstrate to the court that you are committed to providing the best possible care for your child. A parenting plan could something like this: 

  1. Custody Arrangement: a. Joint custody: Both parents will share physical and legal custody of the child. The child will spend equal time with both parents. b. Sole custody: One parent will have physical and legal custody of the child, while the other parent will have visitation rights.

  2. Visitation Schedule: a. Weekday Visitation: The non-custodial parent will have visitation rights every other weekend, starting from Friday evening until Sunday evening. b. Holiday Visitation: Holidays will be alternated between the parents every year. c. Summer Visitation: The non-custodial parent will have extended visitation rights during summer break, lasting 2-4 weeks.

  3. Decision Making: Both parents will make major decisions together, including medical and educational decisions.

  4. Communication: Both parents will maintain open communication and share important information regarding the child’s well-being.

  5. Child Support: The non-custodial parent will pay child support according to state guidelines.

  6. Dispute Resolution: Both parents will attempt to resolve any disputes regarding the child through mediation or other alternative dispute resolution methods.

Remember, every parenting plan is unique and should be tailored to the specific needs of the child and the family. It’s important to work with a family law attorney or mediator to ensure the parenting plan is legally binding and in the best interests of the child.

Hiring a Lawyer

If you are going through a custody battle, it’s highly recommended that you hire a lawyer. A family law attorney can help you navigate the legal process, gather evidence, and represent you in court.

For a simple overview on how to get custody we’ve prepared a simple checklist for you:

  1. Determine what type of custody you want: sole custody, joint custody, or a combination of both.
  2. Understand the legal requirements for obtaining custody in your state, including the factors the court considers when making custody decisions.
  3. Consider alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation or collaborative law, to reach a custody agreement outside of court.
  4. If negotiations fail, file a petition for custody in court and prepare for a custody hearing.
  5. Gather evidence that supports your case, including witness statements, financial documents, and any evidence of your child’s best interests.
  6. Attend the custody hearing and present your case to the judge.
  7. Follow the judge’s orders, including any required parenting classes or counseling, to ensure compliance with the custody arrangement.
  8. If circumstances change, such as a relocation or a change in your child’s needs, file a petition to modify the custody arrangement.

Common Mistakes to Avoid when pursuing Child Custody

Not Focusing on the Child’s Best Interests

When seeking custody, it’s important to always keep the child’s best interests in mind. Focusing on personal vendettas or grievances against the other parent can hurt your case.

Violating Court Orders

Once a custody arrangement has been established, it’s important to follow it to the letter. Violating court orders can result in serious consequences, including fines and even loss of custody.

Not Being Honest

Being dishonest with the court or withholding information can seriously hurt your case. It’s important to be honest and forthcoming about all aspects of your case, even if it may be uncomfortable.


  1. What factors do courts consider when deciding custody arrangements. A:

    When deciding custody arrangements, courts consider several factors to determine what is in the best interests of the child. These factors may vary depending on the state or jurisdiction, but some common ones include:

    1. The child’s age, health, and emotional needs.
    2. The parents’ ability to provide for the child’s physical, emotional, and educational needs.
    3. The child’s relationship with each parent and other family members.
    4. Each parent’s living situation and stability.
    5. Any history of abuse or neglect by either parent.
    6. The child’s preference, if they are old enough to express one.
    7. Any other relevant factors that may impact the child’s well-being.
  2. How long does a custody battle usually take? The length of a custody battle can vary depending on the complexity of the case and the court’s schedule. It can take anywhere from a few months to several years to reach a final decision.

  3. Can I represent myself in a custody battle? While it is possible to represent yourself in a custody battle, it is not recommended. Custody battles can be complex and emotional, and having a family law attorney on your side can increase your chances of success.

  4. Can custody arrangements be modified after they are established? Yes, custody arrangements can be modified if there has been a significant change in circumstances, such as a parent moving to a different state or a change in the child’s needs.

  5. What if the other parent is unfit to have custody? If you believe that the other parent is unfit to have custody, it’s important to gather evidence to support your case and present it to the court. This may include evidence of drug or alcohol abuse, neglect, or other factors that could put the child at risk.

Further Reading:

Child Custody Overview

Understanding Sole Custody in The USJoint Custody Defined: Your Rights and Responsibilities as a Co-ParentIs Split Custody Right for Your Family?Understanding the Basics to the Child Support Laws in the USHow to calculate Child Support Costs – The Ultimate Guide!How the Divorce Process Works: From Filing to Final JudgmentGrounds for Divorce in the US: Fault-Based and No-Fault DivorceMarriage Laws in the US: What you need to knowThe Step-by-Step Process of Getting MarriedEverything About Prenuptial AgreementsBreaking the Cycle of Abuse: Domestic Violence and Legal OptionsThe Right Setup for a Successful Adoption: A Comprehensive Guide

“Understanding Child Custody” by the American Bar Association
“What Is Child Custody Mediation?” by Verywell Family
“Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) in Child Custody Cases” by the National Conference of State Legislatures
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