In a divorce involving minor children, child custody is an important and often emotionally charged issue. A parent wishing to seek full or exclusive custody of the child must overcome a presumption based upon common statutory interpretation that the child's best interests are served by joint custody. In full or exclusive custody, the parent who obtains custody is responsible for the child's emotional and physical welfare and development, as well as his or her education and health care. Due to the significance of the impact on the child's life, the court takes custody hearings very seriously and obtains all evidence necessary to identify the best interests of the child.
Calmly discuss child custody with your spouse. In some instances, parents may come to an agreement without a costly and emotionally draining court battle if full custody can be agreed upon by both parents.
Hire an attorney who specialises in family and custody issues. Fully brief the attorney on the objective reasons why you should be awarded exclusive custody of your child. "He or she was a bad spouse" is not an example of an appropriate reason for awarding full custody.
Ask your child where she would like to live. If your child is too young to articulate her preference, identify what she likes about her living arrangement (e.g., siblings, community, neighbourhood).
Be prepared to explain to the court why you are the parent who can provide for the best interests of the child. Financial stability, emotional stability and the presence of other siblings and family members all serve to enhance your case for custody. Showing that the child has a stable and happy home with one parent is not a guarantee of exclusive custody but will aid in proving who can provide for the best interests of the child.
Provide information showing why your spouse is not suitable for joint custody, including any history of abuse or instability. Mental or physical instability of one parent can result in the granting of full custody to the other parent. An arrest record is not conclusive evidence but may serve to influence the court as to the probability of the child's stability if raised exclusively elsewhere.