Child Custody | Divorce | Family
How Do You Show the Court You Are a Good Parent?
by Philip Ahn, Attorney
Feeling stressed about proving to the court that you are the better parent for your child? Knowing the criteria for the “better parent” standard and what the court considers important can help you increase your chances of gaining child custody.
Whether you are trying to win sole or shared custody of your child, you must prove to the court that you are a good parent. A crucial first step for doing that is understanding the child custody laws in your jurisdiction and what constitutes the definition of “a good parent” in the court of law. Here’s what you need to know.
For more information about custody court, check out The Ultimate Guide to Child Custody.
Understand Who the Court Considers “A Good Parent”
Any parent fighting to receive sole custody of a child or regain shared custody should know that the burden of proof will be on them to demonstrate to the court that they are a good parent.
So – what constitutes “a good parent” in the eyes of the court?
One of the key factors that the court will consider when determining whether or not you are a good parent is your ability to provide a safe and stable home for your child. This includes having a stable job, a safe living environment, and the financial ability to provide for your child. The court will also look at your ability to put your child’s needs before yours and show you will make decisions in their best interest.
The court will also look at your involvement in the child’s past and present life. This includes your participation in their school and extracurricular activities and attendance at parent-teacher conferences and other important events. If you have been an active and involved parent in your child’s life, the court will view you more favorably.
It’s also important to show the court that you have a strong relationship with your child. The court will look at the bond you have with your child and how well you can meet their emotional needs. If you have a strong and loving relationship with your child, the court will view you as a more favorable parent.
Finally, the court will look at other factors that may be relevant to the case. This can include things like your criminal history, history of substance abuse, or other factors that may impact your ability to be a good parent. If you have any issues in these areas, it’s essential to address them head-on and show the court that you have taken steps to overcome them.
For more information on this, check out What Do Judges Look for in Child Custody Cases?
How To Prove That You Are a Good Parent in Court
To prove that you are a good parent to the court, you will generally need to present evidence of the following:
You can ensure the physical well-being of your child.
In court, you can demonstrate your ability to ensure the physical well-being of a child by providing evidence of the following:
- Safe and stable home environment: show that your home is safe, secure, and free of hazardous materials or conditions.
- Access to healthcare: demonstrate that you have provided or have access to adequate healthcare and medical services for your child.
- Good physical health: offer evidence that you are in good physical and mental health and can care for your child.
- Financial stability: show that you are financially stable and able to provide for your child’s basic needs, such as food, clothing, and housing.
- Responsible caregiving: provide evidence of your ability to provide responsible and attentive caregiving, such as ensuring your child is well-fed, clean, and adequately rested.
- Knowledge of child development: show that you have a good understanding of child development and are aware of the physical needs of children at different stages of growth.
Safe activities and play provide evidence of safe and appropriate activities and play opportunities for your child.
By presenting evidence of these factors, you can show the court that you can ensure a child’s physical well-being.
You can ensure the psychological well-being of your child.
In court, demonstrate your ability to ensure the psychological well-being of a child by offering evidence of the following:
- Good parenting skills: offer examples of how you have provided a supportive, nurturing, and stable environment for your child in the past.
- Professional support: show that you have sought professional help for any issues that may impact your child’s psychological well-being, such as counseling or therapy.
- Knowledge and understanding: demonstrate that you have a good understanding of child development and the needs of children and have taken steps to educate yourself on these topics.
- Positive relationships: provide evidence of strong, positive relationships with your child and others in their life, such as the other parent, teachers, family members, and friends.
- Positive role model: confirm that you are a positive role model by demonstrating appropriate behavior, coping skills, and problem-solving abilities.
Provide examples that show the court you are a responsible parent. Here are a few suggestions.
Maintain your child’s documents in order
As a parent, it is crucial to maintain accurate records for your children to ensure their success in school, health, and overall well-being. Conscientious parents stay engaged in all aspects of their children’s lives and have documentation to support this. To demonstrate your dedication as a parent, maintain a file of records, including your child’s birth certificate, social security card, academic transcripts, awards and certifications, health records, etc.
Develop a parenting plan before appearing in court
If you cannot create a parenting plan with the child’s other parent, prepare one on your own. Having a parenting plan at your court appearance shows that you are genuinely committed to ensuring your child’s well-being. The parenting plan should, at a minimum, include provisions for overnight stays with the other parent.
Prepare proof of your devotion to your child
These can be photos from your child’s recitals and other school events and documented memories of the time you were together. Include letters from family and friends that showcase your commitment and presence in your child’s life.
Adjust your lifestyle to be a better parent
If your lifestyle previously included habits that could be considered “inappropriate” by a family court, present proof that you have made the necessary adjustments. Negative behaviors like excessive drinking or drug use can harm your ability to care for your children and may be used against you in a custody case. Being associated with individuals with questionable lifestyles may also lead a judge to favor the other parent in a custody dispute.
Openly express a desire that your child maintains a relationship with the other parent
Judges in family court generally prefer not to limit a parent’s involvement in their children’s lives unless it is harmful. By showing your support for your children’s relationship with the other parent, you demonstrate your concern for their emotional and psychological well-being.
Adhere to the rules, guidelines, and etiquette for court appearances
Your demeanor in court is crucial for demonstrating to the family court judge that you are a responsible, capable, and loving parent. Dress appropriately, exhibit polite behavior, and arrive on time. Additionally, be well-prepared for each stage of the divorce and custody proceedings by having all necessary documents, paperwork, and other items required by the court.
Avoid arguing with the other parent in court and, if possible, anywhere else
Judges prefer parents to have a cordial relationship regarding child custody as it is beneficial for the child’s well-being to have positive ongoing relationships with both parents. Maintain a polite and civil demeanor in your communication with the other parent, especially during divorce and parenting hearings in court.
Work with an Attorney Specializing in Child Custody Cases
They will assist you in comprehending the legal process, provide advice on collecting and presenting evidence to the court, and negotiate with the other parent to reach resolutions that are in your child’s best interest.
If you are concerned about legal costs associated with a child custody case, consider hiring an unbundled attorney. While most attorneys and law firms charge a flat fee for handling a child custody case, an unbundled attorney can take a specific part of your case.
For instance, you can work with an attorney to devise a parenting plan — or consult them on what evidence will best serve your cause. As a result, you could save thousands of dollars in legal fees while still receiving the professional legal assistance you require.