I’m the Best, but He’s Good, too: Presenting your custody case to a judge

It may seem counterintuitive, but in order to prove to the court that you’re the parent most fit to take custody of your child, you’re going to have to have a plan for involving your child’s father in the child’s life, too. Women who go into court with long lists of all the terrible things their child’s father has done not only damage their relationship with their child’s father (which is a relationship that, like it or not, will continue for so long as the two of you share a child in common), but also damage their rapport with the judge.

Why is that? Well, it’s no secret that most experts (and guardians ad litem and judges fall within this category) believe that it is in the child’s best interest to have a relationship with BOTH parents. In Virginia, “best interests of the child” is the standard by which all custody cases are determined. In a custody case, you’re not arguing anything about what’s good for you or what’s good for your child’s father. The ONLY thing the judge is interested in hearing is about what is best for little Amy.

So, what’s really best for Amy? Amy will be the most comfortable in an environment where she is encouraged to have a relationship with not one singularly awesome parent who can simultaneously take on the role of both father and mother, but in an environment where she has access to two (more human) parents. You don’t have to be the “perfect” parent to win custody. Though the judge is probably used to hearing “I’m awesome and he just plain sucks,” he will be the most impressed by a mom who can come to court and rationally say, “I’m the best parent to have custody of Amy, but he’s good, too, and I want to make sure he and Amy have time together.”

The truly perfect parent is the parent that wants the best for the child. Barring exceptional circumstances, it generally is better for the child to feel free to have a relationship with both parents than to only have a relationship with one. No matter what your personal feelings about your child’s father are, it’s best not to let those get in the way of allowing him to have a real relationship with your child. For his sake, you may not particularly care, but for the sake of the child, you’ll at least have to make an effort.

Remember that your relationship with your child’s father is something that will have a strong bearing on the person your child grows into. Think of all the events that you and your child’s father will share together, simply by virtue of being the child’s parent. Think of the child’s graduation, wedding day, and even the birth of her first child—will you want your child to be uncomfortable having the two of you there, or do you want her to be secure enough in her relationship with both of you that everyone is always invited?

It’s a good idea to get used to your child’s father being a part of your child’s life, even after the two of you are no longer romantically involved. It will help you with your custody case, and it will help you as you move forward, both as a person and as a mother.

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