How to Win a Custody Battle Without a Lawyer

By Laurel King

Updated October 08, 2019

Petition for child custody


Although there are no guaranteed methods for winning a child custody case, a successful attempt must start with requesting a court order for custody, whether in the course of a divorce or as a petition for custody and support of minor children. After filing, you can increase your chance of success by following any temporary orders, keeping detailed records, learning laws and court procedure, filing written responses and preparing for court.

Prepare for Your Case

Abide by current court orders while you prepare for your custody case, even if you disagree with them. This will show the judge that you are willing to follow written orders while waiting for your hearing. Learn as much as you can about custody laws, cases and procedures.

The more you know, the more comfortable you will be in court. Visit your state's legislature website, a law library or Legal Aid office, where you can read about the law, find copies of motions or forms, ask questions and learn about successful custody cases. Also learn local court rules and procedure. Each court has its own rules and procedure for custody cases.

Compile Information for Court

Keep detailed records of all visits and calls with your child; write them on a calendar or day planner to create a written record for your hearing. If you have any problems with the other parent, such as his or her being late for visits or not allowing visits, be sure to write them down.

Follow Proper Procedure

As your custody battle evolves, it may be necessary to file new motions and submit evidence, or exhibits, to justify the terms of a proposed custody agreement. This can include copies of bills, bank statements, letters, pictures, phone records and videos.

Ask the court clerk when exhibits are due and meet all filing dates for responses, motions and requests. Submit copies to both the court and the other parent or legal counsel. Respond to written motions and requests.

Attend All Court Appointments

Participate in all evaluations. As part of a child custody case, there may be psychological, social and home evaluations. If the court orders any evaluations for your case, be sure to be available and complete the process. This will help your case move forward quickly and show the judge you are willing to cooperate. If the court does not order an evaluation, you can request one be completed on the other parent.

Plan Ahead for Hearings

A week before the hearing, gather all evidence, exhibits, motions, laws and rules. Write a short summary of your case to read aloud in court, along with key points to remember. Carefully organize all items so you will be able to find them quickly. Hearings are usually 30 to 60 minutes long, so preparation is essential to presenting your case efficiently.

The day before your hearing, practice your presentation in front of a close friend or a mirror. On the day of your hearing, dress appropriately; business attire is preferred. Speak clearly, follow all court rules and be sure to address the judge as “Your Honor."

Maintain a Level Head Throughout

Encourage your child to love and respect the other parent. Never ridicule, berate, belittle or denigrate the other parent in front of your child. This behavior could harm your child or cause you to lose your custody case.