If you and your child's other parent have not been able to reach a custody agreement that satisfies everyone, you may be heading to court. Unfortunately, this means you may be giving up a lot of the control you may have had over the decisions affecting your child's custody.
You can take certain steps to improve the chances of reaching your goals in front of a judge. When everything else is equal, sometimes it is the little things you do that can have the greatest influence on the court.
Putting your best self forward
You may already have temporary orders in place regarding your time with your children. The first step you can take to demonstrate your fitness as a parent is to take full advantage of every moment you now have with your children. Your visitation may be limited to a few hours a week, but you can show the court how important those moments are by doing the following:
- Showing up on time for pickup and never being late when it is time for the children to return to the other parent
- Rescheduling your parenting times only on the rarest occasions
- Refraining from using alcohol or drugs when your children are around
- Speaking only positively about the children's other parent and never putting him or her down to the children
- Avoiding discussing the custody case with the children
- Making the most of every moment you have with the children, including helping them with school and involving them in household duties as well as planning fun events
- Cooperating with your ex-partner
One example of this last item is to honor any specific wishes your child's custodial parent may express regarding meal choices, bedtime and other matters. A parent's inclination to work as a team with the other parent can often impress the courts, and your demonstration of that willingness may benefit you when a custody ruling is on the line.
On the day of the hearing
Coming to court groomed and appropriately dressed will show that you are taking the matter most seriously. Your manners and respectful behavior will also be a good influence on the judge who may be observing the kind of example you set for your children.
You can also prepare for your custody hearing by keeping a careful log of your time with the children as well as any questionable interactions you may have witnessed between your children and the other parent. It will help you to know as much as possible about custody laws in Florida, and an experienced legal advocate can assist you in that area as well as provide solid representation in court.