Child custody disputes can be emotionally wrenching, but they are decided by legal arguments, not emotional appeals. The focus of the judge’s decision will be on what’s in the child’s best interests. This term refers to a legal standard, and is based on a long list of guidelines and factors to consider. If you want to be effective when arguing your case in a child custody dispute, it’s good to understand what the standard means.
Presenting your best interests argument
Under the best interests standard, the court is free to assess a whole host of factors. No one factor is determinative, but some may carry more weight than others depending on the circumstances. For example, each of the following may be enough to demonstrate that a custody modification is necessary:
- Exposure to parental substance abuse
- Exposure to domestic violence
- Physical or emotional abuse
- Lack of financial resources to provide for the child
- Mental health issues that prevent a parent from properly caring for the child
The courts also take into account matters such as each parent’s financial, physical and mental health, as well as each parent’s ability to effectively include the other parent in the child’s life. So, make sure that you have an understanding of all of the factors that may come into play.
If those major issues mentioned above aren’t in play in your case, then your arguments are probably going to be more nuanced. For example, if you’re argument is that your child’s mental health is best supported by sole physical custody being awarded to you, then you’re probably going to need an expert to testify as to why your home better fosters your child’s mental well-being and what, specifically, about your child’s other parent serves a detriment to your child’s mental well-being.
Gathering the evidence that you need to support your position
Of course, bald assertions aren’t going to carry much weight in court. That’s why you need to diligently work to gather the evidence that you need to support your claims. This might include:
- Obtaining medical records
- Seeking criminal records
- Obtaining police reports
- Talking to witnesses
- Discussing concerning events with your child
- Gathering your child’s mental health records
- Requesting the results of a child custody evaluation
- Retaining and presenting text messages and email communications
- Having an expert testify as to relevant child custody issues
You’ll want to be strategic and holistic in how you approach your case, which you may find daunting. But just remember that your goal is to speak to the best interest factors as specified under the law. Be diligent and comprehensive as you look into each of these factors and how they apply to your set of circumstances.
Are you ready to craft the legal arguments you need?
There’s no one approach to child custody cases. Your legal strategy needs to be tailored to the facts at hand, meaning that you need to take a holistic approach to your case. Anything less could put your relationship with your child at risk, and that’s too much to put on the line.
So, if you’d like some assistance in building your case, then please consider discussing the matter with an attorney you trust to put your and your child’s best interests forward. Only then can you rest assured that the best legal arguments will be advanced to protect your child and your relationship with him or her, hopefully leading to the outcome that you desire.