Child custody rights, awarded based on the best interests of the child, are determined by a family court judge. These rights may be granted to both parents, or sole custody can be given to one parent or legal guardian. There has traditionally been a bias toward favouring mothers in custody cases; however, that preconceived notion has been waning in recent years. Whoever is seeking sole child custody must have a carefully planned strategy in place while staying focused and determined throughout the entire process.
Putting together a chronological sequence of events leading up to the custody dispute would be very beneficial. Maintaining records of visits, e-mails, phone calls, and other forms of contact between the spouses and children involved will delineate a timeline of interactions. Talk to friends and family members who have been through similar custody issues. Ensure there is a clear understanding of the details and legal issues which could affect the case.
Contact the local family court division to find out how to file a custody petition and obtain the papers needed to file for child custody. Many courts may provide free online custody forms and informational packets. Take care to complete these forms accurately and correctly. Be very concise and to the point about why sole custody is being sought. Once the paperwork is complete, the material can be delivered in person or sent through the mail. Be prepared to pay a fee for filing these papers.
Divorce is difficult. It is even more difficult when children are involved. Rather than having a judge decide the residency of a child, an alternative method to settling the dispute would be through child custody mediation. In this process, a neutral third party intercedes to facilitate decisions about child custody arrangements. This service, often provided free of charge through family courts, can be very effective when two individuals can resolve custody disputes among themselves in an out-of-court setting. When an agreement is reached through mediation and has the approval of the family court judge, the sole custody plan will be upheld.
Consulting a local family law attorney before proceeding on a sole custody issue may be very helpful. Many lawyers provide free initial consultations which can help to answer questions, explain the law, and give guidance on how to file the necessary paperwork. An attorney can provide basic child custody information and give possible resulting scenarios. If an individual has the confidence and knowledge to represent ones self, an attorney may not be needed. However, for those individuals not familiar with regional laws regarding child custody and for assurance all rights are protected, having legal counsel would be strongly recommended.
An individual should be respectful and polite to everyone in the courtroom including the other parent who may be present. It may take weeks or months before a court appearance is scheduled; therefore, it is up to the individual filing for custody to ensure they are there as planned promptly for the hearing. If the judge's ruling is not favourable, the decision can be appealed. If a higher court upholds the previous ruling, accept the decision.