Losing custody is a heart-wrenching experience for any parent. It's difficult to accept the idea that the court believes your children would be better off with someone else -- whether that's your ex, your parents, or the foster care system. If this happens to you, know that there are steps you can take to have the decision reversed and win back custody of your children. Use the following tips to get started:
- Take an honest look at what went wrong. Consider why the judge made the decision to award custody to someone else. Did you violate an order? Have you been wrongly accused of child abuse or neglect? Having an idea of why the decision was made can help you take steps to rectify the situation.
- Seek legal counsel. In order to win back custody of your children, you will most likely need to work with an attorney who has experience winning similar family law cases. To find a good child custody lawyer, start by asking friends and relatives for referrals. You can also contact your local chapter of The American Bar Association or The Legal Aid Society for assistance.
- Explore any contingencies. Find out whether reinstatement of custody is contingent on any special actions. For example, are you required to seek counseling, drug or alcohol treatment, or attend parenting classes? If the court has placed any stipulations on your ability to recover custody, go ahead and take steps toward completing those demands, rather than arguing over their validity. Fast, thorough compliance will reflect favorably on you in front of the court.
- Request an evaluation. Once you've begun to work with a lawyer and you've begun to complete any steps the court has required, ask the judge for an in-home child custody evaluation. This will provide the courts with an up-to-date assessment of your home, which could help you win back custody.
- Do everything the court asks of you. Do not overlook anything the court is asking you to do. Be present at every hearing, and try not to reschedule appointments with your child's guardian ad litem or a court-ordered mediator.
- Be patient and compliant. While you're waiting for your child custody arrangement to be re-evaluated, make sure that you exercise your full right to visitation and parenting time. Do nothing to aggravate the situation, and make every effort to be polite and courteous when picking your kids up for visits.
- Consider an alternative custody arrangement. Finally, use this time to re-evaluate your own desires. You may have wanted full custody originally, but now that you've lost custody, ask yourself whether you would consider agreeing to shared custody. If that's an option for you, work with your ex (or whoever you would be sharing custody with) to explore that possibility.