Try not to panic. In spite of what you may read about working mothers losing custody, it still is not the prevailing theme. Most moms still win custody. If you lose control of your emotions, you're more apt to undermine your ability to make rational decisions
- Research your case. You'd be surprised how much you can learn on your own by going to the law department of your library and reading about custody issues and options. It's equally important to document everything. Get letters from professional contacts expressing the kind of parent you are. Your child's doctor, teacher, pastor or Rabbi, scout leader or sports coach can contribute letters of endorsement or even appear in court, if necessary to account for your quality of parenting.
- Develop a support system. Even before you seek legal counsel, be sure to have family, friends, a therapist or minister with whom to vent your feelings about your situation. It's a waste of money to dump your feelings on an attorney because as much as your attorney may feel compassion for your case, he or she is not trained to be a psychologist and can do a much better job with just the facts.
- Seek Legal counsel now. You are in much better shape to find a qualified attorney when your emotions aren't draining your energy. Don't go with the first person you interview. Be sure to ask this person a lot of questions such as how many cases like this has he or she handled, what are her realistic expectations and what surprises should you look out for. You can contact your local bar association for a referral.
- Don't be irrational expecially in front of the judge. Sure, you may think you have custody because your child's father disappeared for a year and now he's back with interest. Remember, judges know the law states father's have rights, plus, they assume you knew your rights to file for custody right after the birth. Judges also dislike emotional displays in court and threats of never letting a non-custodial parent see his or her child. If you repeatedly stress that you want what is in the best interest of your child, and that would mean your having primary custody, it's more likely to happen.
This article was reprinted with permission from Single Mother, September/October 1996 Copyright 1996 by Single Mother. All rights reserved. This article may be printed out for personal use but may not be reproduced in any other manner, including electronic, without prior written consent from Single Mother. Permission requests may be submitted to Andrea Engber.