The welfare of the child is the primary goal when decisions regarding custody and primary caretakers are being made; with factors such as guardian’s income, the stability of the environment, parent’s ability to provide the necessary support, and to respect all the required conditions being taken into account.
To improve the chances of a favorable decision in a child custody case, one party will have to demonstrate that they are the best parent for the role of a primary guardian and there are several things they can show to the court to prove their suitability.
An individual can demonstrate that they:
- Are a good parent who is involved with the child’s life (know about their favorite activities, foods, teachers, friends, etc.), and spends quality time together.
- Show a willingness and ability to work together with the other parent for the benefit of the child. Courts prefer some form of shared or joint custody and, unless exceptional circumstances dictate so, prefer both parents to be working together to provide the best possible conditions for the child.
- Respect all the conditions outlined in the child custody agreement by not being late for visits or pickups, paying support on time, and following all the agreed-upon terms.
- Are of good character and are not involved in illegal activities or have bad habits that can jeopardize the welfare and safety of the child.
- Provide a stress-free environment for the child by having stability in their schedule, activities, and surroundings; as well as by not arguing and fighting with the ex in front of them.
- Provide support for the child by having a steady income that can meet the child’s needs.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, a party may choose to concentrate their efforts in demonstrating that the other party is unfit or less capable to act in the best interests of the child and that they can’t provide the required support or create a beneficial environment for them. In their arguments they may try to attack the following factors that influence the terms of a child custody agreement:
- Stable environment: cohabitation with a new partner might be not in the best interest of the child as it can create additional stress factors. Children are unlikely to be comfortable around the new partner and may refuse to stay overnight or visit one parent’s home if they are there. This may prevent a parent from having a healthy relationship with their child and may impact the custody agreement. For that reason, the former spouse may be interested in hiding their new relationship or provide only bits of information that may not represent the reality of their living arrangement.
- Quality time: in some cases, one party may want to get additional time with the child in order to sway the custody time percentage and thus payment amounts that they pay or receive. If the party who claims to spend more time with the child, simply wants more custody time in order to influence support payments, they may not have the child’s best interest at heart. If a parent claims to spend quality time with the child but in reality drops them off with the grandparents or another unauthorized or unknown third party, and leaves to do their own thing; not only it can jeopardize the safety and wellbeing of the child but also demonstrate the “bad faith” nature of their actions and lack of judgment on their part. Evidence of such behavior will have a significant impact on the decision to review the terms of the custody agreement.
- Support: one party may be having a good-paying job that can provide financial support for the child. However, if the job requires long hours away from home and interferes with their parenting duties (by not being available for the child or being late or breaking promises, etc.) it can have a negative impact on the child, and thus it can also have an impact on the terms of a custody agreement. For that reason, the former spouse may be interested in hiding their employment conditions or only provide bits of information that may not represent the reality of their situation.
- Good character: if one party has alcohol, drugs, gambling, or any other addiction; or they have habits that are not suitable for the child; or that the other party has ties to friends or family that are not suited to be around children; or that the former spouse is in debt or is participating unethical or illegal activities; those factors will impact the decisions regarding custody arrangements. For this reason, the party that is involved with any of the above-mentioned factors will try to conceal them or deceive the other party by providing inaccurate or falsified information.
There is no easy way to deal with a child custody battle when both parties separated on less than agreeable terms. When emotions are involved, very often arguments get heated and the truth gets (purposely or not) distorted while one side tries to prove to be a better parent than the other. In those instances, solid and irrefutable evidence is needed in order to show the real situation behind any claims that are being made.
It may be very tempting for one party to try and present information that they obtained by themselves through hidden cameras, digital recorders, or surveillance. Those actions very often break laws related to privacy, private property, and communications; and thus, any evidence obtained in such a manner will be rarely accepted by the courts. Additionally, such actions may have the opposite effect on the case as they may serve as proof that one parent is not willing to follow rules and that they were willing to break the law in order to undermine the other party.
There is very little to gain and much to lose by trying to obtain information in an unlawful manner. If evidence is required to support any of the claims, having unbiased facts provided by an impartial party is the best way to proceed. There are several options that can be explored ranging from research, witness statements, and surveillance; and a trained Private Investigator can help obtain admissible evidence that will increase the chances of a successful outcome in a custody dispute.