The end of a marriage is difficult, but the idea of losing custody of your children is terrifying. A judge's only concern in deciding custody is your child's best interest. Parent behavior during a custody battle can influence the judge as he decides which residential placement meets that criteria. Knowing a judge's criteria in terms of your behavior can better help you demonstrate that your child's best interest lies with you.
Actions and Speech
The things you do and say around your children and your spouse during the custody battle can quickly become evidence against you. Courts consider it in the children's best interest to grant custody to a stable, loving parent. An angry or emotional exchange with your spouse or children, or a thoughtless physical expression of frustration, can be used to color the judge's perception of your character. Any such actions also could create a negative picture of your home environment. In this way, emotional and angry outbursts may reduce your chances of winning custody.
Courts have consistently held that the children's best interest is served by granting custody to the parent least likely to alienate them from the other parent. One parent actively seeking to turn the children against the other in a custody fight is called parental alienation. When parental alienation is at work in a custody battle, judges often grant custody to the parent who doesn't engage in such behavior.
Judges also consider which parent has been the children's primary caregiver, with the focus on preserving this arrangement and maintaining continuity. Being especially mindful of your children's needs and taking an active role in their well-being during the custody battle indicates best interest. This is behavior that judges notice and that can work in your favor in securing the right to continue as the primary caregiver.
Obeying Court Orders
It is not uncommon for a judge to put temporary orders in place governing residential custody, visitation and child support early in the divorce-custody process. These orders reflect what the court feels is in the children's best interest during the pending divorce case, and following them to the letter indicates a willingness to do what's best for the children. When a parent given residential custody allows the other parent visitation, it indicates that the residential parent won't alienate the other. When a noncustodial parent visits his children as scheduled, it indicates his desire to give them the time and attention they need to maintain their relationship. Paying child support on time shows the paying parent's willingness to provide for the children.