1. Spend as much time with the kids as possible: In the eyes of the court, it can be very compelling if the parent that doesn’t live with the children the majority of the time during the separation, makes a conscious effort to make time to see their children, and that this time is well spent and benefits the child greatly. It makes a big impression when you show that, even though they don’t live with you, you are going out of your way to stay present in their life (or “lives” if there are multiple children in the marriage), and that you don’t abandon them. And the best way to “show” this to the court is just that; make sure you take photos of you spending time with your child/children, ranging from taking them to different events, or something as simple as quality time at home. This is a good way to provide indisputable evidence that you care about your relationship with your child. Furthermore, be present in the child’s personal life; showing up at things like parent-teacher conferences, medical appointments, sporting events, and any other extracurricular activities shows a real commitment to the child. Be familiar with the names of their friends, teachers, and caretakers. The more aware you are, or seem to be, the better your chances are.
2. Keep a detailed recording of everything regarding your children, and your children with your ex-spouse: This is something that can really work in your favor in the long run. First off, do not tell your ex-spouse you are doing this; this “journal” can be used to record every instance where the other parent violates the current custody agreement you have in place. For example, if they are late to pick-up or drop off your child from/to you, if they are intentionally sabotaging your relationship with the child, they didn’t pay the expenses for the child that they agreed to pay, or if they don’t show up to certain events your child is in, this can really help swing the child custody battle in your favor. Add this with the aforementioned spending time with the children; you look even better in the eyes of the court. If there are any payments due from the other parent that have not been paid, make sure to make a detailed note of this.
3. Make sure you attend all court dates and hearings: Now that you have done all this work to make yourself look better in the eyes of the court, don’t undermine that all by skipping out on court dates. This is hands-down the worst thing that you can do, and I have seen multiple custody battles decided on the fact that a parent “couldn’t be bothered to show up to the court”. This really tarnishes the notion that you not only don’t care about the kids, but that you also don’t care to have custody of them. In short, go to every single court date that there is.