If you are going through a divorce and you have a child, one of your first priorities is likely going to be maintaining a good relationship with that child. You might not know how the case will turn out when it comes to custody and visitation, so it’s natural that you will want to do everything you can to secure custody or favorable visitation rights. Here are some tips on making sure you can stay in close contact with your child and have favorable visitation rights or custody that will foster a good relationship.
Understand the Different Types of Custody
Before you can seek custody or visitation, it’s helpful to know what the types of custody are and what type you are pursuing. Many divorcing couples agree on joint legal and physical custody. Joint legal custody means that you are equally able to make choices for your child when it comes to medical and educational issues. Joint physical custody refers to where the child lives. Although the arrangement might not be 50/50 (and usually it isn’t), he or she lives with both parents, spending nights at both houses over the course of a week.
Sole custody, on the other hand, is when one parent is allowed to make all of the medical, educational, and legal decisions for the child. When this is granted, often that parent will also have sole physical custody, meaning the child lives solely with that parent. In that case, the non-custodial parent might or might not have visitation rights. Generally, this only happens when one parent is unfit to have custody of the child or does not wish to have custody.
Keep in mind that state laws differ when it comes to custody and determining what’s in the best interest of the child. A legal resource group can help you understand what’s required, customary, and to be expected for your specific state.
Create a Parenting Plan With Your Child’s Other Parent
The best way to ensure that you have favorable visitation rights is to create a parenting plan with your ex. This is a document that the two of you write up that details when you’ll each have visitation with the child. It should also include who will have the child on birthdays, holidays, and school breaks. When you both agree on what the custody agreement should look like, it’s usually not a problem for a judge to approve it; this is what makes it enforceable. If, after creating the parenting plan, one or both of you realizes that changes need to be made, you may need to go back to court to modify the plan.
Stay Involved With Your Child’s Day-to-Day Life
Even if your child is currently living with his or her other parent, it’s important to stay involved with what’s going on in his or her daily life. Call, text, or email frequently. Be sure to keep up with any visitation you currently have. Show up when you say you will. Let your child’s other parent know that you want to attend games, shows, and other special events that your child is in.
By staying as involved as you can now, you will be cementing in your child’s mind the fact that you want to continue having a relationship. It will also help you later if you need to defend your right to favorable visitation rights or custody in court.
Take Any Necessary Steps to Improve Your Situation
Many parents occasionally struggle with various parts of their lives. If you are unemployed, don’t have a stable home to live in, or working through an addiction or substance abuse situation, don’t give up. Take the tangible steps needed to improve your current situation. This will make it more likely that you will be seen as fit to have custody or favorable visitation rights. If you have been allowed only supervised visitation at this point, cooperate fully with the social worker assigned to your case. Be on time and ready for any visitation that you do have. Show your child, your ex-spouse, and the judge that you are willing and able to make the changes needed to be the best parent you can be.
Represent Yourself Well in Court For Favorable Visitation Rights
Learn how to make a good impression in court if your case needs to go to trial for you to secure favorable visitation rights. Wear appropriate clothing, understand what is going to happen as far as courtroom procedure goes, and use proper courtroom decorum. Address the judge as “your honor,” and do not speak out of turn. Answer questions you are asked and never interrupt anyone, particularly the judge.
It’s also essential to have all of your requested documents in order and ready for the judge when you’re asked to submit them. The paperwork needed for a divorce and a custody or favorable visitation rights agreement is sometimes a bit overwhelming, so consider working with a legal advocacy group who can help you make sense of it all.
Seek the Help of a Legal Resource Center
A legal resource center is a great choice for you if you aren’t able to afford an expensive private attorney. Not only will your legal resource professionals be able to walk you through the process of representing yourself and the best interest of your child as you go through your divorce but they’ll also give you the confidence you need to manage your own journey toward fair and favorable custody rights.
At National Family Solutions, we believe that the best solution is one that is in the best interest of the child and that also takes into consideration the rights of both parents. It’s beneficial in almost all cases for fathers to have the same rights when it comes to visitation and custody as mothers do. We have professional attorneys, paralegals, mediators, and evaluators either on staff or otherwise affiliated with our practice so you will have the help you need to secure favorable visitation rights. A divorce only means that you wish to sever ties with your ex-partner, not that you should sever ties with your child.
Contact us to see if we are the right people to help you represent yourself and your child.