Friday, May 22, 2009

How To Win A Custody Case

Because of our tremendous success in the field of Georgia Father’s Rights, I am often asked what I do to “win” a difficult custody case.

The reality is, every successful attorney who wins fathers’ rights cases, simply manages the facts and presents the case to the judge. We argue positions that other attorneys are not willing to argue. However, the most important aspect of winning a fathers’ rights case is the client. There is no attorney in the world that can turn bad facts into a good case. If you left your wife, moved to another state, have not seen your children in years, and have not paid any child support in years, you will most likely not get custody.

On the other hand, if you have been involved in your children’s lives, and care more about the children than about hurting their mother, there is no reason for the court to assume that you are less of a candidate for a primary custodian than the mother.

The hardest cases to try are those where the father is as good of a parent as the mother. There is not really anything negative about either parent, and each wants custody. These are also the most difficult cases for judges to hear. How do they decide who should get custody? I attempt to “tell the story” of my client through collateral witness, through the children, through the use of the Guardian ad Litem, through neighbors, school counselors and other professionals who can attest to the benefit the children have had from having an involved father.

Another difficult case is where the father really is a better parent, but it is difficult to prove. The Mother may have been the stay-at-home primary caretaker, but she is not really doing a good job. The children still have all of their arms and legs, but they are not receiving the emotional nurturing and support they need. She feeds them fast food, although she does not work outside of the home. She sleeps all day, and does not keep up the house. Her days are spent sleeping, or attending tennis clinics or spa appointments, and the children are an afterthought. The Mother wants custody, but mostly because she needs the child support. These kinds of cases baffle my clients. They know they are the better parent, but they need help proving it. That is where an experienced attorney can make a difference.

The bottom line is - it really is an uphill battle for Fathers most of the time. I think this can be attributed to Fathers’ rights advocates who talk the talk but do not walk the walk. I recently represented a Mother, where the Father had been trying to reinstate his parenting rights after having been arrested 100 times, driving the 10 year old child around to buy drugs in hotel room, and abandoning the child at a bus stop and calling the mother to pick him up after he had left the child. The “Fathers’ Rights attorney” in his closing argument, eloquently stated how the presumption for fathers should be for joint custody, at which point, everyone in the courtroom rolled their eyes. That particular father was not exactly a cause the attorney should have gotten behind. It destroys credibility in the eyes of the court. Needless to say, that Father is still prohibited from seeing his child.

The only way to “win” a custody case is this: be a good father at all times, even when the mother makes it difficult. Spend quality time with your children. Help them with their homework, take them on educational experiences. Don’t be a Disneyland dad. If you are a good father, then others will see it. That way, when it is time to go to court, you will have no shortage of witnesses to testify about your exemplary parenting skills. That makes my job easier.

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