Judges believe that, in the vast majority of cases, children need both parents involved in their lives. (Notable exceptions are the obvious ones–abuse, drunkenness, and the like.) A parent may not like any more the person who he or she picked to bear their child, but that gives that parent no reason to bad-mouth the other parent, and to physically or emotionally deprive the child of two parents. Better the parent should say “He’s a wonderful father/mother, even though we cannot get along together as a couple. He/She doesn’t spend as much time with the children as I do, or as much as I would like him to, but I know he/she loves them. So long as he/she keeps his girlfriends/boyfriends out of the children’s lives while they visit with them, he/she should see them as often as possible. And while s/he’s not the best housekeeper, it would be like the children camping out in the woods when they go over to his/her home. That would probably be fun for them.”
That gives the judge the impression that the parent seeking custody knows how to accept the failings of another with good humor and in stride. The judge will sense that the custodian will try to build the relation between the non-custodial parent and the children, and will not disparage the other parent in front of the children.
The court can and will consider the custodian’s age, health, wealth, religious beliefs, conduct, sexual preference, type of home, psychological evaluations; the location of the residences of the child’s siblings; the child’s school performance; or anything else the court considers important.
“I love them very much and will miss them terribly if they are not living with me.”
(Variance: “He doesn’t need them as much as I do.”)
“I make more money than my spouse and can buy them better things.”
(Typical response by judge: “Well, I can sure take care of that. And the children can remain put.”)
“My wife is the one who left the home. Therefore everything in the house, and the children she took with her when she left, should be mine.”
(Judges just love parents who consider children as property, don’t ya’ think?)
“I can’t have any more children.”
(And perhaps you shouldn’t, if that’s your best reason why the ones you have now should be living with you.)
Remember what was written before: the test for custody is “Which parent can serve the child’s best interests?” The test is NOT “Which parent will have his or her interests served best by having custody?”
If there is custody litigation, you must be able to show the judge that the child is better off with you. A photograph of you and your child having a good time doing things together at a particular moment is useful evidence, but live witnesses are much better. This is a good time to subscribe to and read publications such as Parents magazine. Buy some books about children, parenting, and getting children through divorce. Attend seminars and keep the brochures and literature. The important point here is to do these things for your child and for yourself. If you are doing it just to impress the judge, it will show.