Divorce is an ugly business, of that there is no doubt. When it comes to protecting your rights on child custody, however, it can get even uglier. All the spite that has built up between the two of you will come to a head, in court, and emotions will get out of control, and it can be difficult to remember that the ones who need to be protected are the children, not your ego and reputation. That said, the best way to protect your rights, and have your say, as to who gets custody of a child is to plan ahead and come up with a strategy and the best legal advice you can get.
First and foremost, before considering any child custody strategy you need to retain the legal services of a good lawyer, preferably one well-schooled in the ways of family court. Family law has changed considerably over the years, with issues concerning adoption, paternity, fathers rights and even grandparents rights now taking precedence over the old ways. It used to be that the mother automatically got custody over any dependent children that were part of the marriage, but no longer. Because of this, you cannot assume that either parent will have dominance when it comes to deciding child custody arrangements, visitation rights, or even child support. The old ways are gone, and you need a good lawyer assisting you every step of the way.
When you sit down with your lawyer to discuss strategy for family court, you can start by listing all your strengths and weaknesses as a parent, from your perspective. The valid points to consider when considering the custody of a child are your financial position, any support you receive or may receive from family members concerning child care, employment, career goals, the stability of your support group beginning with your parents, and the details of the home environment, according to the best interests of the children. Keep in mind that you will need to look at everything from the judge’s perspective, which entails ferreting out any possible risks to child protection, under child law.
Now that everything about you, and your side of the family has been covered, it is now time to look at your soon to be ex-spouse. Make a detailed list of their weaknesses and strengths as a parent, and a person. Try to keep the bitterness to a minimum during the strategy session, those issues may be brought up later in court, if needed. Be sure to include anyone from the ex’s side that may be interested in suing for visitation, like grandparents, especially if they would also have an interest in the custody of a child. All strengths and weaknesses should be listed so that your lawyer will know exactly what he will be up against in family court.
Work through with your lawyer any scenarios regarding custody agreements, both pro and con. It is always recommended to try and work something out between the two parties directly involved, that both can agree on civilly, especially regarding custody, visitation and child support. These pre-agreements can be legally binding as a result of the divorce proceedings, but if the matter goes before family court for approval, be prepared to not have your wishes honored exactly as you see fit.
In most states, but especially in Florida, the judge presiding over family court matters concerning child custody, visitation and child support will rule as he or she sees fit, always keeping the best interests of the child or children involved as paramount. It is not what is best for either parent, but for the children, period. If this means joint custody, shared responsibilities and support, then so be it. Prior arrangements can, and will, be superseded by the judge if it is better for the children involved. Any parent has the right to challenge any agreements made during a divorce simply by requesting their day in family court.