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Documenting your petition for sole custody

Even if you were able to negotiate most of the terms of your divorce settlement, it is not uncommon for spouses to reach an impasse when it comes to matters of custody. In recent years, family courts in California and across the country favor custody agreements that allow both parents to share in the parenting process as equally as possible. If this is not a plan that makes you comfortable, you have some work to do to convince the court.

Seeking sole custody carries two important burdens. You must prove to the court that your former spouse is unfit, or you must demonstrate that you are the better parent. The key is documentation. Before you even set foot in the courtroom, you must submit ample documentation to support your petition for sole custody.

What papers do I need?

The day you walk into court for your custody hearing, all the other participants should already have received the documentation you plan to present. This means you must prepare quickly and thoroughly. As soon as you separate, it is always a smart idea to begin keeping a log of your children's interactions with the other parent, especially if you expect there will be a custody dispute. That log will become a vital piece of evidence, which will include:

  • Dates and times of any phone calls between your children and the other parent
  • Details about how long the calls lasted, what they talked about and how your children seemed after the call
  • Dates and times of visits between your children and the other parent
  • Details about how long they spent together, where they went and how your children seemed after the visit
  • Notations of times when your ex-spouse was scheduled to call or visit and failed to or was late
  • Statements from teachers about your children's performances after spending time with the other parent
  • Statements from coaches, friends and neighbors about negative interactions they witnessed between your children and their other parent
  • Medical reports if you suspect abuse

Don't forget to seek statements regarding your own parenting and the relationship you have with the children. You can even petition the court to perform a custody evaluation of you and your spouse and your respective homes if you think it will benefit your case.

All of your documents should be attached to your petition for custody, which you will submit to the court well before your scheduled hearing. You will also make sure your former spouse has a copy. When you come to court, it will be wise to bring several extra copies in case something gets misplaced. Your attorney can help you with gathering information and may have suggestions for additional documents to include.

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