How to Get Full Custody of Children After a Divorce

By Beverly Bird

Nothing is forever, not even the terms of a divorce decree. If the custody arrangement in your decree no longer works after your divorce is final, you can ask the court to change it. You’ll need a very good reason, however, and you should be specific about what you’re asking for. Most states refer to "full" custody as “sole” custody. Asking for sole physical custody means you want your children to live with you the majority of the time. It does not mean that their other parent won’t see them at all.

Nothing is forever, not even the terms of a divorce decree. If the custody arrangement in your decree no longer works after your divorce is final, you can ask the court to change it. You’ll need a very good reason, however, and you should be specific about what you’re asking for. Most states refer to "full" custody as “sole” custody. Asking for sole physical custody means you want your children to live with you the majority of the time. It does not mean that their other parent won’t see them at all.

Step 1

Check your state’s laws regarding changes to a custody order. Some states require that, absent an extreme emergency, a certain amount of time must pass after the court signs your decree before you can ask to modify it. Judges value stability for children, so they frown upon frequent custody changes. Most states also require a “material change of circumstance” before they’ll alter custody terms.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Step 2

Document whatever circumstance has changed to warrant a modification of your custody arrangement. Your case may hinge on proving the material change of circumstance to the court, so take your time and be thorough. Acceptable circumstances for making a change include your children’s other parent developing a drug or alcohol addiction that puts them at risk while in her care, or introducing someone new into her household, such as a new spouse or roommate who is abusive toward them. Gather as much physical proof as possible that these developments have occurred. The court won’t take your word for it.

Step 3

Visit the courthouse where you received your divorce. Speak with the court clerk and ask for the appropriate forms to file a motion for modifying custody. Some states call these “post-judgment” motions and others call them “motions for modification.” These form packets usually include the motion itself, which you would use to tell the court the changes you want to make, and an affidavit or certification, which you would use to explain your reasons.

Step 4

Complete your motion and affidavit. Make copies of the documenting proof you’ve gathered regarding the change of circumstance, and attach it to the affidavit. Label each document as “Exhibit 1” or “Exhibit 2” so the judge who reviews your paperwork can easily find and refer to the documentation you’ve supplied.

Step 5

File your completed paperwork with the court clerk and ask about what rules your state has for serving a copy on your children’s other parent. Some states will allow you to do this by certified mail; others might require that your county sheriff deliver them.

Step 6

Attend the court hearing when the clerk notifies you of the date and time. Your mission is not just to demonstrate to the court that your children’s other parent should no longer have custody. You must also prove that your children would be better off with you. This means being factual and cool-headed when you orally present your case to the judge. Your ex-spouse will probably try to prove that you’re wrong, so hold on to your temper and emotions.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
My Ex-Wife Is Trying to Gain Custody of Our Children after Our Divorce Decree

References

Related articles

How to Get an Emergency Court Order for Visitation Rights for a Father

In most cases, family court judges want you to have time with your children just as much as you do. Even if the court finds that for some reason you’re unfit for full custody, the judge will typically grant supervised visitation, allowing you to see your kids with a responsible, third party adult present. State courts are vested in maintaining the parent-child relationship, so if your soon-to-be ex is depriving you of visitation, all you really have to do is get into court to ask for an order.

Family Law on Perjury for Sworn Statement

When the pressure's on and you feel like you have a lot to lose, it might be tempting to fib a little. This is particularly true in divorce litigation when so much is at stake – assets you've spent years working for or custody of your children. If you make a misstatement, however, you open yourself up to charges of perjury. This is the legal term for lying under oath, either in writing or on the witness stand at trial.

What If a Child Custody Decision Has Been Made But Changes Occur?

It's not a foregone conclusion that parents move into separate households the minute they decide to divorce; many remain in the marital home together. If you decide to part ways, custody and visitation can become an issue long before your divorce is final. You generally cannot take your children and leave without a court order giving you permission to do so, but you can reach an arrangement by consent or the court can issue one after a hearing. Either way, if your situation changes after the order is in place, you have a few options for modifying it.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

Can You Go Back to Court for Custody After You Gave Your Child to Your Spouse?

Parents always maintain the right to go back to court to change custody arrangements after their divorce is final. The ...

How to Draft a Child Custody Affidavit

If custody is a litigated aspect of your divorce, you won't need an affidavit for the trial, but you may need one at ...

Dating During the Temporary Custody Phase of a Divorce in Oklahoma

Oklahoma's divorce statutes don't include a specific prohibition about dating. They don't say that if you go out for ...

How to File for Child Custody in Washington State

Custody of your children can be a major issue before, during and even after divorce. During your divorce process, you ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED