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Eight Steps On How to Win Sole Custody
When getting divorced with minor children or establishing paternity of minor children, the Court will decide
who gets custody of the children. Custody may be joint, or shared by both parents, or sole custody, only one
parent has the custody and the other has visitation, or parenting time with the children. If you are going
through a divorce or paternity hearing, where custody of the children is an issue, and you want sole custody,
follow the steps below to assist you in preparing your case for the best outcome.
Locate and read your state’s custody law. Each state has a law concerning custody, which lists the factors
that the Court will consider in making a custody determination. In order to win a custody hearing, you will
need to concentrate on these factors first. To find your state’s laws, use the map or the links on Child
Custody Coach’s Child Custody Laws by State webpage. Some of the factors the Court may consider
• The age and sex of the child. The Court may look at the age and sex of the child because generally the
younger the child, the more he or she needs his or her mother, but as the child grows older, he or she may
need his or her same sex parent to a greater extent than the other parent.
• The physical and mental health of everyone involved. If either of the parents is mentally ill or suffers
from a physical condition, which may affect his or her parenting, the Court will take this into consideration.
• The wishes of the child (if the child is of a certain age, usually 14). While a child does not get to decide
which parent he or she will live with, the Court will consider the child’s wishes.
• The child’s adjustment to his or her home, school, and community. When parents live in different
communities, the Court may be reluctant to move children who are well adjusted to their current home.
• The child’s relationship with each parent and his or her siblings and extended family. The Court may
be reluctant to move a child who has bonded with his or her siblings into a home where the siblings will not
• Each parent’s work schedule. Work schedules that require a parent to be absent from the home for
long hours may not be ideal for a parent seeking custody.
• Which parent is more likely to ensure that the child maintains a relationship with the other parent
especially with regard to religious practices.
• Which parent has been the child’s primary caregiver. If one parent has done most of the care giving for
the child, the Court may not want to remove the child from that parent’s home.
• If there has been a pattern of domestic violence or abuse by one of the parents against the other, or
against the child.
• If certain religious practices of one parent cause the child to not trust or be afraid to associate with the
Think about what other things may help the Court decide to give you sole custody. The Courts do not rely
completely on the factors listed in the child custody statutes, and any evidence you can present which tends
to show that you should have sole custody should be considered. This may include the other parent’s
cleaning skills and fitness of his or her home, parenting skills, drug or alcohol use, ability and willingness
to participate in the children’s extracurricular activities, psychological manipulation against the other parent,
the other parent’s criminal history, or inability to communicate with you in order to co-parent the child with
Find out what the other parent plans to say at the hearing. In order to be fully prepared, you must know what
the child’s other parent intends to say about you at the hearing. To do this, you will need to send him or her
a set of Interrogatories. Interrogatories are questions that a party to a lawsuit must answer under oath and
return to you with his or her answers. You can use your favorite search engine to locate a form for
interrogatories and then modify to fit your needs. Some common questions to ask in custody
• Do you believe that you are the best parent to have custody? If so, why?
• Do you believe that [insert your name here] is a bad parent? If so, why?
• Do you follow and practice all the tenets of your religion?
• When was the last time you used illegal narcotics?
• List all anticipated exhibits.
• List all witnesses you intend to call. Indicate their name, address, and summarize the testimony they
• Do you and your child’s other parent communicate well? If not, why?
• Do you believe that it is in your child’s best interests for you to have sole custody? If so, why?
Gather evidence, which supports you having sole custody. Think about each factor that your state’s Court
will consider when making a custody decision and what evidence you have to support your contention that
you should have sole custody. For example, if the child currently lives with you and makes good grades at
school, you may want to use his or her report card as evidence of the child’s adjustment to your home and
community. Conversely, if the child currently lives with his or her other parent and has poor grades, you may
want to use the report card to show that the child has not adjusted well to the other parent’s home. If the
child makes specific statements that put you in a negative light due to influence from the religious practices
of the other parent make a diary as to the times and places when these comments are made. Do not make
this a regular interrogation but simply note when comments are made.
Determine which witnesses you will call to testify. Again, think about each factor that the Court will consid
er in making its custody determination, and decide which witnesses you may be able to call to prove that
you should have sole custody. For example, friends or family members, a schoolteacher, an expert on
religious practices, an employer, or anyone who can testify that you have always been the primary caregiver
that the other parent’s work schedule causes him or her to be away from home for long hours, or that the
child does not seem to have a relationship with the other parent.
Prepare your witnesses. Come up with a list of questions that you will ask each witness and go over the
answers with them. Make sure they are able to answer the questions in a way that casts a favorable light on
you, without sounding vindictive, rehearsed, or as if they are taking sides. You may also want to go over
Courtroom decorum with your witnesses. Things such as how they are dressed, what they call the Judge,
and the language they use can all effect your case. Conservative, dress clothes are best, they should refer
to the Judge as “your Honor” or “Judge” and never use any foul language.
Prepare for your hearing. Now that you have your evidence and witnesses ready, it is time to get yourself
ready for the hearing.
• Dress. Choose conservative clothing, and dress up. If you are man, wear a suit and tie, women
should wear slacks or a long skirt or dress, and a shirt that is high cut.
• Grooming. Men should shave and women should keep makeup and jewelry to a minimum.
• Evidence and exhibits. You will need 3 copies of any evidence you intend to submit. One for the other
parent, or his or her attorney, one for you, and one for the Judge.
Follow the rules of Courtroom decorum. Arrive early and follow basic rules of decorum, such as waiting for
your turn to speak and addressing the Judge as “your Honor” or “Judge” and witnesses as Sir or Ma’am.
Make sure your attorney is fully aware of all your information and on board with your defense.