1. Fight as hard as you can to get the most time possible from the very start. Whether you want the kids to live with you (as primary residential custodial parent) or you simply want to have an “aggressive” visitation access schedule, be clear about your goals and push for what you want. If you want equal time (or any decent amount of time), you need to push for more from the very beginning of the case.
2. Find an attorney who gets it. (Blog Author’s Note: Illinois Attorney Michael F. Roe “gets it!”) Many divorce lawyers just don’t understand why dads want more access time. You are dealing with a system that has historically favored mothers’ custody wishes, and is only now very slowly changing.
3. Do not bring child support issues up in custody conversations. Period. Many people — even some lawyers — will assume you want more time with your kids because you want to pay less child support, even when faced with facts that you are the more nurturing parent. While some states tie access time to pro rata support (like New Jersey), some, like Illinois, do not.
4. Draw your calendared schedule — literally. This is a highly effective tool because you might think “alternate weekends and Wednesday night dinner” doesn’t sound so bad. Draw it. You’ll see that the child will go seven days (twice a month!) without seeing dad at all. That’s an eternity to a young child accustomed to having dad around every day. Not only is drawing a persuasive tool for a reluctant “old school” attorney or judge, but many times mom will be persuaded as well. After all that’s seven straight days of no help from dad!
5. Cautiously extend the olive branch to your children’s mom. At the end of the day, once the lawyers are paid, the court hearings are over and the dust settles, you and your ex will be co-parenting your children. A horrible custody battle can set a toxic model for the rest of this long-term relationship. Be reasonable and even giving on certain issues that are important to her. The long-term payoff might be a positive co-parenting relationship — and that will directly benefit you and your kids.
Credit: HuffPost Morghan Richardson http://www.twitter.com/morghan