You and your once trusted partner have split or are in the process of divorcing. Maybe you or your spouse have threatened to “take the kids”. Tension is in the air, questions run through your head keeping you up at night. You can’t eat, you can’t sleep. You worry. That’s a huge understatement…. you worry more than you’ve ever worried before. I know fathers experience their own array of emotions and problems facing a custody battle… but this article is not for you. This is for all the moms out there who do it all for their precious kids everyday and do not want to have their lives stripped away because of poor planning.
What should you do when facing a custody battle? Document, document, document. Start right now. Even if your mediation or supposed court date is way into the future. Document everything. When In court, he said, she said….amounts to nothing. If you want to get your point across, you must have it in writing or photos. How? Well, the best way to start is to download an app on your phones that allows you to type in facts and photos. The one I used is called ‘day one app’ on iPhone. It is an app you can lock, and enter facts by each day and hour, and add pictures. Once you have compiled all of your info… the more the better… you can upload them into a PDF file and send to your attorney. This is how I won primary custody of my child. The father was not taking care of my child and I had to prove it. I kept a journal in day one for many months entering in times for pick-up, drop-off and I took pictures documenting any bruises or strange happenings. The opposing attorney looked at my huge compilation of journal entries and photos when we went to court, and immediately caved. If you have nothing but empty claims about what the other parent did or didn’t do, you will not get very far in a courtroom.
Let’s say that the other parent is taking care of the kids just fine, but they are verbally abusive towards you or the kids and during drop off and pick up. Another helpful thing you can do is to record your conversations. I know it sounds shady, but this is serious and if you want to win, you must have proof. Most phones nowadays have a voice memo app already built into the phone. Use it. Turn it on right before you approach the other parent and have the phone on in your pocket to record any bad or abusive language. You can then save these files to your computer and send to your attorney.
The last aspect of documentation is a no brainer. Save all texts from the other parent. Save every single email. They may not ever be needed, but if the other parent is harassing you via text or email and you have it saved and present it in court, it can help your case.
Just being real here, I know so many these days going through this and I went through it myself. I’ve been to mediation. I’ve been to court. It’s the worst experience ever. However, if you are truly prepared with an arsenal of documentation, you can sleep much better at night knowing that you did all you could to get what you deserve. Primary custody means that you have the kids most of the time and the other parent has ample visitation. Joint custody means you split your time down the middle. It seems that the days are gone where Mom automatically gets full custody and Dad gets visitation. It is becoming much more common now to receive joint custody or shared custody. That doesn’t mean it’s for the best. The other parent has to prove that they can provide childcare while at work in order to receive joint. Joint custody is not the automatic norm and don’t let anyone try to make you believe it. With joint custody, you will NOT get very much child support. Look up a child support calculator in your state and enter in the info to provide an idea of what support will look like. Never go into a mediation or court date for child custody asking for joint custody. Terrible idea. You have to prove why you are the better parent and why you should be the primary caretaker. Your life will be on display. Anything bad about you will be dug up. Mudslinging at its’ finest. Have your documentation ready to fight back and win.
You will get through this. I promise. It feels like it will never end, but it will. Joint custody is not the end of the world, if that is how it ends up. It’s funny how life gives you only what you can handle. When you go through a custody battle, you have to find strength deep down inside that you never even knew you had. But it’s there. It’s in all of us. Being prepared is what will bring your best outcome. I wish you the greatest of luck.