Divorce is a bear: an unrelenting adverse situation that demands your attention until its legally resolved. Even after the divorce is final and the papers are signed, you’ll still have to manage its side-effects for years to come. That all may sound doom and gloom, but some divorce after-effects are positive, like the freedom to be your unabashed self again, no longer having to fight over a budget, and the freedom to make important decisions for your child, at least some of the time.

If you have children under the age of 18, child custody is a side effect of divorce. Maybe the spouse you are divorcing or thinking of divorcing is abusive of absent in your child’s lives. If so, your chances of being granted sole legal (the right to make legal decisions on the child’s behalf) and physical (the child’s primary and sometimes sole residence) custody would expand.

If both parents seek a favorable custody agreement, what can you do to turn the tides in your favor?

1. Become educated about your state’s child custody laws

Each state has some unique child custody laws. How could they affect your situation? Read up and be prepared because, in most cases, both parents have an equal right to children’s custody.

2. Present yourself in the best possible light

This includes your actions inside and outside of the courtroom. Be cooperative with your ex, and don’t talk negatively about them, which can quickly backfire if heard by the wrong ears. Also, practice the following:

  • Be on time to pick up your kids (Always)
  • Don’t reschedule time with your kids (this makes you look irresponsible)
  • Don’t misuse drugs or alcohol
  • Do everything in your power to show the court that your children living with you (even part-time) would be beneficial to their physical and psychological well-being. 

Courts will always cite that their decision was in the children’s best interests.

3. Exercise your rights

Before and throughout the divorce proceedings, attempt to spend as much time as possible with your children. Doing so will show the court that you are a competent, reliable, and loving parent. 

Also, when the time comes, request an in-home visit. If your ex tries to demonize your home situation, a neutral third-party must take a look. If the home visit goes well, it would likely gain you some favorability points.

Finally, dress appropriately in court and seek out a family law attorney with child custody experience. How you dress in court matters, and you will be judged (at least initially) on your appearance.