What Is in a "Character Letter" for a Child Custody Court Hearing?

By Anna Green

In a child custody case, judges and custody evaluators assess what arrangement is in the child’s best interests. To assess the best interests of the child, the court may consider the character of each parent and their ability to meet the child’s needs. A character letter can serve as a type of evidence attesting to a parent’s fitness. Most often, custody character letters are employed in contested cases, such as divorces where one parent is seeking sole custody and the other wants joint custody.

Best Interest of the Child

The Child Welfare Information Gateway explains that most courts use the best interest of the child standard when making a custody determination. The exact factors that courts and custody evaluators use to determine the best interest of the child vary among states, but generally, the court will look at the parent’s relationship with her child, her parenting skills and knowledge of the child’s needs. The court may also look at a parent’s ability to act morally, abide by the law and maintain a stable lifestyle.


Character letters can provide the judge and custody evaluator with evidence of a parent’s morality, character and ability to care for the child’s daily needs. These letters might be written by family members, friends, neighbors, professional colleagues, teachers, daycare providers or any other parties with knowledge of the parent’s character or intimate understanding of the parent’s ability to care for her child.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan


Unlike many legal documents, a character reference letter for child custody may employ informal language. Additionally, a character letter may be concise and provide a brief statement indicating that the character reference believes that the parent is a fit custodian for the child. Since custody reference letters may be in support of a parent, they often emphasize a parent’s good qualities and minimize their less positive traits, explains child custody coach Steven Carlson.


The opening of a child custody character reference letter will usually introduce the writer and describe her relationship to the parent. Further, the letter might list the writer’s credentials, particularly if she has particular knowledge in child rearing and development. The beginning of the letter may also include a description of the parent’s relationship with her child. Within the body of the letter, the character reference might include anecdotes, stories, narratives or descriptions of the parent-child relationship. These stories might illustrate positive character traits or describe the ways in which a parent employed a particularly effective style of parenting or showed a constructive attitude toward the child.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
Tips for Winning a Child Custody Battle



Related articles

Father's Child Custody Rights When the Child's Mother Is Mentally Ill

Mental illness can affect not only a person's life, but those around them as well. For that reason, courts take mental disorders seriously in deciding child custody matters. However, state law also recognizes the importance of having both parents involved in a child's life, as well as a parent's right to raise a child without the government interfering. Understanding how a mother's mental illness can factor into a custody determination will help you properly exercise you rights as a father.

How to File for Sole Custody & Supervised Visitation in New Jersey

In New Jersey, there is a strong presumption in favor of preserving the family unit and ensuring children have ample time with each parent. When time with a parent places a child in danger, however, the courts may grant supervised visitation on a permanent or temporary basis. Cases involving supervised visitation can quickly grow contentious and may involve complex legal issues. A parent who is seeking modification of an existing custody has the burden of proving to the court why a change in the order is necessary.

Who May File for Joint Custody of a Minor?

Laws regarding child custody vary between jurisdictions. State laws and statutes govern how the court awards custody and how custody matters are defined and labeled. Generally, however, physical custody involves the day-to-day care of a child. Legal custody may overlap with physical custody and involves the right of a party to make decisions about a child’s health, education and welfare. Physical and legal custody can be either joint—shared by two parents—or sole, entrusted to only one parent.

LegalZoom. Legal help is here. Start Here. Wills. Trusts. Attorney help. Wills & Trusts

Related articles

The Best Interest of Children in a Custody Evaluation

Understanding the needs of a child is a crucial component to making an informed custody decision. Custody matters are ...

Forms to Be Completed During Custody Evaluation

In a contentious custody battle during or following a divorce, the judge might order an evaluation by a professional to ...

How to Prepare for a Temporary Custody Hearing

A temporary custody hearing occurs when one person seeks temporary custody of a child pending a final resolution of the ...

How Can I Get Sole Custody in MA?

When going through a divorce that involves children, custody is always of concern. Obtaining sole custody of a child in ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED