Keep a clear head and follow these tips to help secure the rights to be your children's primary guardian.
- TIP: Legal parental rights include the responsibility to make education, health care, religion, and other life choices.
- Step 1: Evaluate any dangers the children may face in staying with either parent, including substance abuse and household stability. The court will also review social contacts, neighborhoods, and access to extended family.
- FACT: Child fatalities due to abuse and neglect disproportionately affect young children and most often are caused by one or both of the child's parents.
- Step 2: Consider the independent financial abilities of each parent to clothe and feed the child.
- Step 3: Determine in the hearing which parent can personally devote the most time to childcare on a regular basis.
- Step 4: Enter mediation if you need a third party to referee. A judge will ultimately have to approve the agreement.
- TIP: Courts attempt to ensure a degree of contact with both parents, no matter the custody outcome.
- Step 5: Debate the issue in court if all else fails, using expert and witness testimony. The child’s preferences will be evaluated by the judge.
- Step 6: Negotiate privately with your soon-to-be former partner to determine the best arrangement for the child. Perhaps you can strike a separation agreement and save some trouble.