Unfortunately, some child custody cases in Illinois turn into bitter court battles. When parents can’t negotiate a shared custody arrangement privately, the court must step in to make a custody ruling. If you are involved in a contested child custody case, it’s crucial that you prepare.
Document your strengths
A judge is not just going to take your word for it that you’re a fit parent. If you help your child with their homework and take them to sports practice every day, find a way to prove this. You should be keeping records of everything you do with your child, gathering witness statements and saving any paper evidence.
Document your ex-spouse’s weaknesses
If your ex-spouse has a history of substance abuse, domestic violence or mental illness, you should be gathering evidence of these things. A judge will be very interested in past convictions, past interference with a child custody order and proof of drug use. You should also start keeping a record of any comments your child has made that indicate your ex-spouse is neglectful, abusive or inappropriate.
Prove that you are the primary caregiver
When both parents are relatively fit and don’t have anything terrible on their records, family court judges are most interested in which parent is the primary caregiver. To gain full or primary custody, you must be able to show evidence that you provide your child with their most basic needs. A judge may consider you the primary caregiver if you:
- Prepare meals for your child
- Drive your child to school and activities every day
- Attend all doctors’ appointments and make your child’s medical decisions
Every child custody case is different. Even if you are the primary caregiver, your ex-spouse may work hard to prevent you from gaining primary custody, so you should be prepared to present evidence of your involvement in the child’s daily life.