child hugging her mother with father arguing with lawyer in the background

How to Get Full Custody of a Child

You have become concerned about the way in which your ex-spouse is raising your children and believe that it would be to their best advantage to spend more time with you. When one parent sues the other to amend the terms of the existing custody arrangement and asks for “full custody” of the children, what factors does the court take into consideration? 

A recent celebrity news item about a custody battle between exes Christina Hall (previously Haack) and Ant Anstead teaches a valuable lesson about the high stakes involved in child custody modification lawsuits as well as the high burden of evidence that must be met by the prevailing party in these instances. How to get full custody in a divorce

Hall, a personality on HGTV, and Anstead, a broadcaster on British television, were married from 2018 to 2020 and had a son who is now two years old. They have had jointly parental responsibilities since when the divorce was completed in 2021. Anstead, on the other hand, went back to court just a week ago in order to obtain complete custody of their kid (sole custody). 

Anstead communicated to the court his primary assertions in support of his request for a revision to the custody arrangement, which was as follows: Hall allowed the child to become sunburned and was dismissive of the health effects of sunburn; Hall failed to inform him that their son had contracted Covid, exposing Anstead and his partner Renée Zellwegger to the virus, which resulted in a temporary halt to production on Zellwegger’s latest movie; Hall spent an extraordinary amount of time away from the child when she was caring for him; Hall allowed the child to become sunburned and was dismissive of the health effects of sunburn; and

Anstead’s claim was dismissed by the courts in the state of California on the grounds that he had made an “insufficient showing” of evidence in his first filing and that Hall had not been provided with an adequate notice on the request. The court date for the two parties has been scheduled for June 28, providing enough time for both parties to compile evidence and prepare their cases for the hearing.

The Anstead-Hall case demonstrates how seriously the courts take any request to change an existing child custody arrangement, as shown by the fact that they granted the requested alteration. It is not sufficient to assert that one parent is “unfit.” Thorough evidence MUST be produced in the issue to clearly indicate that a child’s best interests would be better served with a different custody arrangement. It is not sufficient to assert that one parent is “unfit.” Now that the process has been initiated, Anstead is responsible for taking the necessary procedures to gather the information that will support his position and the reasons for the adjustment.

What You Need

Take a lesson from the Anstead case if you are considering asking for a modification to an existing child custody order in the state of New Jersey. It will be VERY important for you to provide evidence that can show the courts why a new custody arrangement or parenting time schedule is necessary. Take this lesson into consideration if you are considering it.

The following are the three most important pieces of evidence you should have on hand:

Parenting Log

In the event that you have not done so previously, go out and get a diary so that you may begin recording the amount of time you spend parenting (or download a co-parenting smartphone app with a journal function). 

Written documents of this kind are sometimes referred to as “custody journals” when presented in legal proceedings. Write the date next to each entry and include any necessary comments about significant events, milestones, or problems that arose during that time period. Among the items on the list are:

Some parents find that writing in a journal helps them figure out what changes they might want to make to their parenting time or visitation. For example, if the child’s other parent is always late to pick up the child at the custody swap and the child seems upset by this, the courts may decide that this is reason enough to change the schedule.

Photo Records

Along with your parenting log, keep a photo or video record of some of the best times you’ve had with your child. Did you go somewhere fun? Did you spend time changing up your son’s or daughter’s room? Did you all get together for your child’s birthday? Is there something about the way your child looks that worries you and is important to your request? 

For example, in Anstead’s case, a picture of sunburn. A picture can say more than a thousand words about your relationship with your child and how you spend your time together. Also, keep any notes and cards that you and your child have written to each other and that drawing your child made of you both. If you ever need to prove how close you are, this kind of information could help.

Other Files & Records

At the time of your divorce, did your busy work schedule make it hard for you to spend much time with your kids? Have your work hours gotten shorter since then? Did you move to a new house where your child now has his or her own room? Do you now live closer to the other parent of the child and/or the child’s school, or do you live farther away? Does your job require you to move? Before you start the process to change your custody plan, make sure you have proof of any major changes in your life that could affect your child’s life and the current plan.

In New Jersey, changing a child custody order can happen in family court, where a judge decides whether or not to accept a formally filed motion, or it can happen outside of court if both parents agree to a consent order that changes the current arrangement.

Please read our article on changing child custody after a divorce to find out what to do next.

If you want to change your child custody plan, we can give you the legal advice you need to make the best decision for your child and your family. Please call us today to set up your first, confidential meeting with an attorney. Call us at (270) 558-4790.