It’s not unusual for parents who divorce to be at odds with each other. And if it comes to a bitter custody battle, parents sometimes go to great lengths to make the other look bad. So you may have wondered “how can I prove I am a better parent than my ex?”
Here’s how to prove that you’re a better parent than your ex during a child custody case:
- Get familiar with child custody laws in your jurisdiction.
- Tell a story that illustrates your love for your child.
- Show the court that you know your child.
- Present a file of your child’s important documents.
- Show that you have safe, stable housing for your child.
- Prove that you have efficient child-care arrangements.
- Present a log of your child-related activities.
- Present a well-prepared proposal for a parenting plan.
- Show that you’re willing to work with your ex.
- Ask witnesses to testify on your behalf.
- Don’t be overly performative.
- Remain comported in court.
- Prove that you genuinely want the best for your child.
Having your parenting X-rayed can be a complex, draining process, but it’s a necessary part of the journey to earning custody of your child.
Even if you think yourself a better parent, or even an excellent one, the law says you have to prove to the judge that your ex isn’t fit and convince the court to get a ruling that gives you preferential custody of your child.
Convincing the judge needs much more than your word of mouth, but don’t worry, as it’s not an impossible task.
In this article, you’ll find an in-depth explanation of how exactly to go about each step of getting a court order that sides with you being the better parent and winning sole custody of your child.
But always remember that it’s in the children’s best interests to have a visitation schedule and joint custody arrangements with both parents unless there has been physical abuse or emotional abuse.
1. Get Familiar With Child Custody Laws in Your Jurisdiction
Child custody laws are generally very different based on the country, province, and state you’re in. Before developing your plan, you need to understand whether the law’s peculiarities will affect your case.
The easiest way to find your jurisdiction’s custody laws is a simple Google search. You should get information from trusted sources, especially those backed by the government or owned by a legal firm.
When you find the laws, your next task is to go through them. Look at the factors how that determine how fit or unfit a parent is in your local courts. Then make those standards the most important part of developing your case.
For most custody decisions, the standard used for assigning custody is in the child’s best interests. Often, but not always, this is with both joint legal custody and joint physical custody.
The judge’s decision may be based on what is considered the best way to protect the mental, physical, and emotional well-being of the child.
The general goal is to prove that you’re the parent who can provide the child with the best possible upbringing.
If you can afford it, you could hire a lawyer to help with interpreting the laws and developing your case with you. In lieu of that, you can find legal advice specific to your jurisdiction through online tools like www.legalmatch.com.
2. Tell a Story That Illustrates Your Love For Your Child
Choose a story that shows long-standing dedication to your child and a healthy, close knit-relationship. Remember that the aim is to prove that you deserve preferential custody and not to outrightly plead for it, so ensure that you appeal to the judge’s emotions very subtly.
The story might be about a time when you were there for your child while your spouse was unavailable is a great way to show the judge how indispensable your presence is to your child. It also shows how you’ll do a better job of aiding their well-being and proper upbringing.
If asked, you might want to subtly downplay your ex’s parenting abilities by simply telling the truth about where your ex was during that story. Of course, this might only work if the ex was not in the picture when this story happened.
This can create questions about your ex in the judge’s mind and assume the worst about your ex.
3. Show the Court That You Know Your Child
Including random details of your child’s personal information can go a long way in showing that you know your child well and not just on paper. This might include:
- Favorite color
- Favorite food drink
- Favorite sport
- What extracurricular activities they are involved in.
- How you’ve supported them.
You should prove that you have an intimate, loving personal relationship with your child as their parent. Bringing pictures, artwork, or crafts that you kept as mementos can do an excellent job of providing some hard proof beyond word of mouth.
Again, it would be best if you prioritized mementos that include you alone, without your ex.
4. Present a File of Your Child’s Important Documents
An important sign of responsible parenting is careful, organized record-keeping of your child’s important documents in an accessible location. It’s essential to have a folder with their birth certificate, academic transcripts, health records, and other vital documents handy.
It serves as helpful proof to your case in court if a need arises, because it shows that you are lovingly involved in all aspects of your child’s life. Those documents could be significant in refuting any false claim your ex may make.
Aside from helping in court, proper record-keeping gives your child the lifelong advantage of easy documentation in most future occurrences.
5. Show That You Have Safe, Stable Housing for Your Child
All courts consider stable housing a fundamental requirement for a child. So, barring the involvement of a more important factor, a parent with unfit or unstable housing is very likely to lose preferential custody to one with stable housing.
If you don’t have arrangements for proper accommodation, you should get it done as soon as possible. You’ll need to get a house within your income range in a child-friendly area and prove that it’s a sustainable, long-standing arrangement.
6. Prove That You Have Efficient Child-Care Arrangements
Remember, the main goal is to show that you’re the better parent and that making you the primary custodian would be in your child’s best interest. You need proof that you’ve made arrangements for safe, trustworthy care for your child when you’re working or unavailable.
The court won’t always consider this, especially if you’ve proven very strongly that you’re the more fit parent, but it’s important to have it handy. In whatever case you need to use that information, it’ll show that you’re careful about your child’s welfare and dedicated enough to make arrangements even before the need for it arises.
7. Present a Log of Your Child-Related Activities
Word of mouth won’t pass as sufficient proof that you’ve been present in your child’s life and responsible for their care, but a carefully prepared log will do that. Parenting time, duties, and expenses may not be things you’ve bothered with documenting in the past years, but you can create one based on rough estimates using online tools.
If you’re having trouble making one on your own, you could consider an online tool like CustodyXChange to log your time and calculate it.
It’s crucial to also journal your duties as a parent and caregiver to your child. This might include:
- Making their meals.
- Attending games.
- Going to recitals.
- Going to parent-teacher conferences.
- Helping them study.
You could include pictures, receipts, and other relevant proof that help to show that you have been very involved in your parenting duties and that you’re indispensable to your child’s life.
8. Present a Well-Prepared Proposal for a Parenting Plan
Intending to become the primary caregiver for your child without your ex in the picture isn’t an easy task, especially with other commitments you might have. You’ll need to show the judge that you understand the implications of the new custody arrangement, and you take your new responsibilities to your child very seriously.
The best way to do that is to create a proposal for a parenting plan.
You’ll need to work towards a plan that doesn’t have drastic changes from the current arrangement. If drastic changes are necessary, include activities like family time to help your child regain emotional balance and adjust to the new arrangement.
Some courts factor in the child’s opinion, especially if they’re older, so you should go over the plan with your child as well. Ask them what they need, and include their needs, wants, and opinions in the plan you create.
9. Show That You’re Willing To Work With Your Ex
Courts usually consider the presence of both parents essential to your child’s proper development, so a judge wouldn’t favor a parenting plan that excludes one parent for no solid reason.
Unless you can prove that your ex is dangerous to your child, that they are an unfit parent, or that their involvement in your child’s life is detrimental, showing that you’re willing to work with your ex for the child’s best interest would do a lot to help prove that you’re the better parent.
If you’re choosing to prove instead that your ex is dangerous to your child, or is guilty of domestic violence, gather substantial evidence to support your claims, and present the facts without seeking to antagonize them. Don’t make false or unproven claims in an attempt to convince the court.
If you can’t provide proof for your claims, you may face penalties, and it becomes much less likely that the judge will assign you custody.
If your ex has denied you access to your child, gather proof of those conversations through voice recordings, call recordings, or texts to prove that your ex has been unwilling to work with you.
10. Ask Witnesses To Testify on Your Behalf
You could get testimonies from witnesses who’ve had first-hand knowledge of the relationship between you and your child. Professionals like your child’s teachers or therapists would be great, as well as close friends, neighbors, or relatives.
The testimonies of your witnesses should revolve around their knowledge of your child, your relationship with them as a parent, and why they believe you’d be the better parent for preferential custody.
If you have a history of substance abuse or mental illness that would be unfavorable to your case, the testimonies of your medical professionals and other people in your social circle are especially significant. It’s essential that your witnesses are very honest, especially with facts that may need proof.
If any of their testimonies are found to be a lie, it could be damaging to your case.
11. Don’t Be Overly Performative
A judge presiding over a family law case, especially one as dicey as a custody ruling, has an eye out for falsehood and hypocrisy. While trying to convince the court, don’t be unnecessarily dramatic or performative in an attempt to appeal to emotions.
Dramatic sobbing, fainting spells, or unnecessarily intense gesturing are more likely to turn off the judge and give the impression that the case you’ve presented is false than to help your case.
12. Remain Calm and Professional in Court
As an ideal parent for preferential custody, you should show yourself to be a well-rounded person and an adequate role model for your child. You have to “be on your best behavior,” no matter what happens.
In court, don’t speak out of turn, interrupt others, or refuse to follow instructions, no matter the provocation. Show up to court prepared with adequate information, and ensure that your feelings don’t get in the way of your logic and clarity.
Creating a good impression on the judge and the rest of the court will be very important when the custody decision is made.
13. Prove That You Genuinely Want the Best for Your Child
Most of the time, nothing adequately prepares you for the questions and scrutiny you may have to deal with in court. Whatever may come up, remember that the ultimate goal is to prove to the judge beyond reasonable doubt that all of your actions are in the pursuit of your child’s best interest.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are both parents splitting custody in the best interest of the child?
In short, yes unless one parent is a danger physically or emotionally to the child.
So just because you and your ex can’t get along and had a nasty divorce case, that doesn’t mean the custody of the child should be a reflection of that drama.
Primary custody might be given to the more stale and less volatile parent.
But family court judges tend to favor the mother. But that being said, I did have a judge recently decided in my favor with regard to primary custody when our 2 teenagers (ages 14 and 15) decided they only wanted to live with me and not their mother.
My ex fought it and lost. But in our case, there was a history of drug and alcohol abuse and a recent arrest that all proved that living with her was not in the best interests of the children.
How do you win a custody battle with a narcissist?
First, does your ex simply have some narcissistic tendencies or have they been diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder?
There is a difference!
But either way, these people can be very charming, warm, and friendly to others. This can make it hard to prove to others that they are a narcissist. In fact a lot of the time, the narcissist is so convincing, they convince others that you are the problem.
So the only way to win a custody battle is with documentation.
Detailed notes, photos, or videos with dates, times, and detail accounts of what happened. The more corroborating evidence or witnesses the better as otherwise, it’s your word against theirs.
In my case, I don’t know (medically) if my ex is a narcissist. But she certainly exhibits a number of the classic signs.
But in my case, I’m not trying to take our kids away from her. I am, however, trying to support our now 14 and 15-year-old daughter’s decision to want to live with me full time and legally get the custody agreement to reflect giving me sole physical custody.
Are child support payments modified in a child custody evaluation?
In short, not necessarily.
Just to illustrate how skewed our system is towards mothers, I’ll go back to our 2 older daughters who now want to live with me 100% of the time.
While the judge issued a temporary order granting me full custody of the children, he not only refused to modify the child support payments at this time, he is making me pay back the money I had withheld ever since they stopped living with her.
So I’m literally giving her thousands of dollars a month and she spends no money on them, has no contact with one, and very limited contact with the other (always their choice as I stay out of it).
But the judge did say he would reserve the right to make her refund it to me when he eventually issues a final order.
Common terms and definitions
- Guardian Ad Litem – Someone appointed by the court to investigate on behalf of the judge and conclude what would be in the best interest of the child. The parents would typically split the cost of this person.
- Non-Custodial Parent – A noncustodial parent does not have custody of the child whatsoever but may have visitation rights
- Physical Custody – The parent where the child lives. It may be sole physical custody or shared physical custody.
- Legal Custody – This parent has the ability to make decisions on behalf of the child such as medical, schooling, etc, even if they do not have physical custody or share physical custody. This can be shared between both parents if both share physical custody. But 1 parent may also be granted sole legal custody.
- Temporary Orders – As the name implies, this is a temporary agreement signed off by a judge while the lawyers and judge negotiate a final, more permanent, custody agreement.
A child custody battle can be long, drawn-out, and very draining as every part of your parenting is under intense scrutiny, but it’s not an impossible task.
Remember that the burden of proving that you want the best for your child is on you, and it’s much easier to convince the judge when you yourself truly know that you’re acting in their best interest.
Of course, I have to add that I am not a lawyer, nor do I know the laws in your state or country. I am, however, divorced (twice) and have recent experience going through one. However, my comments and articles should not be taken as legal or professional advice. If you need legal or professional advice you should consult a professional in your area.