Being a father is a hard job, bur it is also immensely rewarding. While many fathers assume that the courts will automatically award full custody to the mother, this is not the case. Both parents have equal legal rights to their child at the start of a child custody court hearing. If you are looking to increase your odds of getting joint or full custody of your child, here are five tips to help fathers increase their chances in court.

Show Up

It is crucial that you show up for all court dates and meetings associated with the custody case. This shows the judge that you are serious about gaining custody. You should also make sure you maintain your relationship with your child during this difficult time. If your child has sporting events, performances, or other extracurriculars you usually attend, make sure you continue this during the divorce and custody hearing. The judge wants to see the importance of your relationship with your child and the stability you provide for the child.

Have a Plan Already

The judge has a legal responsibility to the child and must advocate for whatever custody arrangement is best for the well-being of the child. The judge wants to see that you have plans for how you will care for and financially provide for the child. This may mean securing or proving you have stable employment, financial means to provide food and clothing, and also that you have a safe, stable place for the child to call home. It is vital to have these necessities in place or are in the process of obtaining them since it shows you are capable of assuming full or partial responsibility for your child.

Keep Accurate Records

Some mothers may use communication methods (text messages, emails, voicemail messages, or other electronic correspondence) when talking to the father about their child, their care, and the visitation of the father. If a mother is already withholding visitation rights during the divorce or custody hearing, having a record of that on hand to present to the court may help you secure full or partial custody. You should keep all communications related to your child in case you need them in the court case.

Be Civil with Your Child’s Mother

While child custody cases are often emotionally fraught and tensions are high, it is crucial that you remain on civil terms with the mother of your child during this time. This will show the judge that you are committed to co-parenting if you are seeking joint custody. If you are seeking full custody, it will show the judge that you value your child’s well-being enough not to fight with their mother or expose them to possibly traumatic situations or conversations.

Always Put Your Child First

Winning is not the point of a child custody case. Any father who truly wants what is best for his child should be honest with himself and the courts about his ability to care for the child if granted joint or full custody. If you are not able to provide a safe home at the moment, you should be honest about it. You can always take some time to get your life in a better place to secure joint or full custody at a later time. It is important to remember that you are not signing away your parental rights. You can ask for the court order to be modified at a later date to fight for custody.