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Court appearance: Improving your chances of winning child custody

Despite certain perceived historical precedents in child custody battles, there are no sure bets when you take your challenges to the courtroom. Texas family law judges are supposed to examine each case individually rather than basing their decisions on tradition or stereotypes. This means that, whether you are a mom or a dad, you cannot go into the courtroom without giving careful thought to how you will present your case.

In custody matters, preparation is critical; you have too much at stake to leave the outcome to chance. You can take certain steps to build a case for your good parenting -- from the moment the custody of your children becomes an issue.

Take control of the situation

If you and the other parent of your children are already working with a temporary custody order, you should not take that order for granted. Understanding that your every step (or misstep) may be under scrutiny may help you make choices that will benefit your cause. For example, the following actions could be used as evidence that you are unfit to take custody of the children:

  • Showing up late or frequently cancelling when it is your turn to be with the children
  • Neglecting important routines, such as homework, baths or eating nutritious meals
  • Saying negative things about the other parent to or in front of the children
  • Refusing to complete any court-ordered tasks, such as parenting classes or anger management counseling
  • Drinking, using drugs or engaging in risky or illegal behavior when the children are with you
  • Lying to the court about your ex-partner's behavior
  • Refusing to cooperate with your co-parent

In general, the court will assume you have the best interests of the children at heart if you are willing to put aside any animosity and work in cooperation with the other parent.

Going to court prepared 

When your court date arrives, it is wise to show up on time, well-groomed and prepared with documentation that will support your case. This may include genuine evidence of any abusive, neglectful or incompetent parenting by your ex, if relevant, as well as proof of your own skills and efforts. If you requested an in-home evaluation, which is a wise idea, you can present the results to the court.

In all your responses to the judge, it is critical to be patient and respectful. The judge may assume your interaction in court is evidence of how you treat your children. Before stepping foot into the courtroom, you would benefit from gaining as much information as possible about how the law relates to your circumstances.

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