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The Basics: Navigating Your Child Custody Case

Contested child custody cases can be highly emotional. Almost all custody cases can be
“won,” which, of course, means that almost all custody cases can be “lost,” regardless of whether
you are the mother or father, or the custodial parent or the non-custodial parent. Parents often
compete to show the Court that he or she deserves primary custody of the child and in doing so,
at times lose sight of the actual end game: to provide a stable, supportive environment for the
child. Your first step should be hiring an experienced lawyer with an in depth knowledge of the
law, court procedures and strategies.

In deciding a child custody case and in an attempt to provide children with a stable and
supportive environment, the judge considers the best interests of the child. This standard gives
judges broad discretion to consider all relevant factors of a case including each party’s ability to
financially provide for the child, the overall health of each parent, the parent’s ability to
cooperate and communicate with each other, and the parent’s willingness to foster their child’s
relationship with the other parent, among other factors.

Winning a child custody case involves providing the child with a stable environment
within the home taking into consideration the child’s physical, mental, emotional and social
health. This involves providing the child with consistency during his or her everyday life in terms
of schooling, discipline, extra-curricular activities, chores, friends, and every other aspect of the
child’s life.

Part of providing the child a stable environment in which the child is able to grow and
develop includes the parent’s physical, mental and emotional health as well. This may include the
parent having to remove themselves from a toxic or stressful situation, going to therapy, or
engaging in medical treatments. Whatever the solution, both parents, whether custodial or noncustodial, should seek to be the best versions of themselves to help provide the child with a
stable environment that fosters all aspects of development.

Parents should always strive for open communication with each other regarding the child
regardless of the custody determination or access schedule. It is important for each parent to keep
the other apprised of doctor’s appointments and physical health of the child, grades, teacher
conferences and school milestones of the child, and extra-curricular activity schedules.
Each parent should seek to foster their child’s relationship with the other parent. This
involves encouraging the child to have a relationship with the parent and abstaining from
negative comments about the other parent in the child’s presence regardless of the situation.
Children should never be informed of the status and procedures of Court appearances and should
be excluded from the case to the greatest extent possible.

Engaging in these practices will help ensure that the child does not feel pressure from
either parent to “pick sides,” unnecessary anxiety, or a complete upheaval of their life. Custody
cases are difficult for all individuals involved and can be severely detrimental to a child’s
physical, emotional and mental well-being if overly informed and the subject of unnecessary
pressure and stress related to the action.