How to Win a Custody Battle

There is one sure-fire way to win a custody battle.  Ready for it?  Here it is: don’t act like you are trying to win a custody battle.  What??  You read that correctly.  Trust me, I have 20 years of family law experience.  I know what I am talking about.  I have a fool-proof method which I share with my clients – listen to my advice, act like a grown-up, act like you care about your kids, think before you react, admit your shortcomings and do something about them.  There, you’ve won your custody case.

In Wisconsin, the standard for making a custody or placement determination is what is in the best interests of the children.  By the way, I refer to it as a custody battle because that is the common term but, usually, it is a placement dispute.  Custody is legal decision making only.  Placement is where the child resides, with whom and what type of visitation will be ordered.  With regards to the best interests of the children, you can read the research but it is very clear – kids do best when their parents don’t fight and communicate.  Simple, right?  If it was simple, I would be out of a job.

It seems counter-intuitive to not fight.  You need to fight for your rights!  You are “entitled” to what you want.  You know best for your kids because ____ (insert excuse).  Your soon-to-be-ex is a _____ (insert expletive).  You have to let the kids know what is really going on!  You have to defend yourself!  Wait – who is this about again?  You or the kids?  Of course this isn’t about the kids – it’s about you.  This is the attitude you need to “divorce” yourself from (pun intended).

No one is perfect.  Not one single person on this earth is a perfect person, perfect spouse, perfect parent.  Why not acknowledge that?  Don’t be defensive – it is true of everyone.  All you need to do is to find out or admit your failings and fix them.  This isn’t a criminal case – an admission of guilt doesn’t send you to the slammer.  There is not one judge, Guardian ad Litem, social worker who will think less of you for admitting that you are not perfect and to be willing to fix your problems.  This is especially true if your spouse never learns this lesson.

The next step is to figure out what is best for your kids.  Is it in your kids best interest to have a healthy and strong relationship with both parents?  Of course it is!  That does not translate to counting days, power, control, whatever.  Just because you’re the mom, doesn’t make you genetically predisposed to being a better parent. Aren’t your kids entitled to have a strong relationship with their dad? Just because you’re dad, doesn’t give you “rights” over your kids.  What about your kids’ rights?

I always tell my clients that they need to come to court with “clean hands.”  In a custody battle, this means always, always trying to be the best parent you can be.  Act like an adult.  Encourage the relationship between the child(ren) and the other parent.  Communicate in a civil and constructive way (by email, if possible, so you have written documentation).  Be flexible even when it is not convenient.  DO NOT, under any circumstances, discuss your divorce with your children!!!

Even if all of this means that you are taken advantage of by the other parent, even if this means that you feel like they are winning and you are losing, you will be far better off in the long run.  The judges, court commissioners, Guardian ad Litem and social workers will all respect you and think you are a wonderful parent.  Because you are being a wonderful parent if you do these things.  YOU are putting the kids ahead of you. YOU are looking out for the best interests of the kids.

And, in the long run, this will win you your custody battle, even if there isn’t one.  It is hard to fight about or with someone who is unwilling to create the battle in the first place.  And, if the other parent still insists on fighting with someone who is behaving this way, they are the ones who will look bad and you will prevail in the end.

Trust me.

Teri M Nelson

6 thoughts on “How to Win a Custody Battle

  1. I’d love to find some answers about my custody battle, My parents don’t know what to do, no let me rephrase that, my dad wont let me live with my mother, my mom wants my younger sister and I to live back with her, we want the same. I need to talk to specialists or lawyers about this before we bring it up to the court. One question, in Wisconsin where im from, isn’t it at age 16 I cant decide if I even want to live with either parent or have anything to do with them?

  2. This really helping me ,I just had a question ,if I’m trying to take my son out of state is there a way the judge let me with my sons dad getting visitions out of state ,,I’m really worried my sons dads never been there for my son now cus I’m tryna take him out of state his filed for court ,can they forse me to stay in Wisconsin ?

  3. My friend is trying very hard to win a custody battle. The child has been in two drug raids by the time she was two years old, her mother got a felony possession of methamphetamine last month and today just got caught for possession of paraphernalia and felony bail jumping. The weird thing is that both times the mother was let off on signature bond. He is working with his child support case worker to get custody and placement. What is the best way to go about this when in certain situations the government of the mothers county seems that they have taken her side. I know it is harder for a father to get custody in the state of Wisconsin so what advice can you give me about the situation? There is way more to the story but would appreciate any legal advice! Thanks

    • I am sure there is way more to the story. For that reason alone, not to mention I cannot evaluate cases in this forum, I am afraid I cannot give you any information or advice. Your friend’s best bet is to seek advice from an experienced divorce attorney who can evaluate all of the facts. Most divorce attorneys offer free initial consultations. Good luck.

We welcome your comments or questions. We will do our best to try to respond. However, please be advised that we cannot give legal advice in this forum and all communications are for general informational purposes only. Communication should not be construed as forming an attorney-client relationship. This is an open forum and any information you provide may be posted and will not be held confidentially. By posting a comment or question, you are expressly giving consent for the publication of same. If you have any specific legal issues or concerns, we always recommend that you consult with an attorney in the county and state in which you reside.

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