Getting Custody of your Kids after a Divorce
When you got married, you thought that the "I do" meant forever. Unfortunately, as the years went on, you realized that "I do" had somehow become, "I just can't do this anymore". You've separated from your spouse and are working out the details of who is going to get what as you go your separate ways. It isn't easy. In the midst of emotional turmoil, everything from the CD collection to the family dog becomes fodder for a tug-of-war. But the one thing that each of you wants most is the thing that you can't put in the middle and pull apart: your children.
No one can blame you for wanting to get custody of your children. And no one can blame your ex for wanting that same thing. Being separated from your children is one of the most awful experiences in the world and it's a natural instinct to fight to prevent that from happening. But custody battles are traumatizing to the children involved and you want to do everything that you can to minimize the fight while working out the details of custody.
The first thing that you need to do is commit to working out a solution as calmly as possible. You don't want to do that. Your ex infuriates you. You are emotionally drained. And you just want to take your kids and be done with it all. But the fact of the matter is that your kids probably want to have time with both parents and they want it to happen in as calm a manner as possible. If you really don't think that you can work out custody calmly, you need to foot the bill for an attorney to do your negotiating for you.
Before trying to get custody of your kids, consider carefully what kind of custody you want. You're probably going to say that you want full custody. However, unless your ex was abusive or will be putting your kids in danger, you're probably only going to be able to get joint custody. Sit down and map out what your ideal custody situation is, what terms you'd be willing to negotiate about and what isn't acceptable to you. Planning this in advance of actually negotiating with your ex will help you to reach a custody agreement that you can live with. For example, you want primary custody and the kids with you on every holiday. You're willing to accept shared custody and the kids going to your ex's on either Thanksgiving or Christmas but not both. When you start negotiating, you'll state your goal wish first and negotiate down to your acceptable terms. This helps you to look sane and willing to compromise while you still get a custody deal you can live with.
To actually work out the details of the custody, you'll probably want to work with a lawyer. This should be a legal agreement so neither of you can go back on your word. If you're on agreeable terms with your ex, you can save some costs by working out everything sans lawyer and then just having a lawyer present to draft the final agreement and make it official. If you can't reach an agreement, you may have to go to court. If that ends up being the case, you need to get prepared.
To prepare to get custody, you need to make sure that you can prove that you can actually care for your kids. This means that if you don't have a job, you need to get one. If you live in one bedroom in your own mom's house, you need to find an apartment with a separate bedroom for the kids. If you have any sort of addictions or vices, you need to kick them. When you go to court, you're going to get dragged through the mud. Show up there as someone that your kids can be proud of and you'll be able to prove to the court that you're fit for custody. Reiterate your goal wish for custody and what you'd be willing to negotiate on. The court will then decide.
Remember throughout all of this that it's important to keep your kids out of the middle of your custody battle. Let the bitter tears and ugly fights happen when they're at school or with the babysitter. Remind them that you love them regardless of the divorce. And be honest with yourself about what custody situation is truly and honestly best for them. By keeping your kids' needs at the forefront of the situation, you'll work out a custody situation that benefits them. In the end, that's what is most important.