If you are trying to obtain custody of your child in South Dakota, you know that a court’s decision is guided by what is in the child’s “best interest.” In making this determination, a court carefully examines each parent’s behavior. Essentially, if you are seeking custody of your child, you must convince a court of your strengths as a parent and, in some cases, the other parent’s weaknesses.
Here are 10 tips that you should understand as you approach a South Dakota child custody case:
Tip #1 - Always follow a court’s custody and visitation order.
Tip #2 - A court will review which parent does a better job of sharing the child with the other parent. Make sure that you have done everything to ensure the child goes on each of the other parent’s visitations.
Tip #3 - If the child doesn’t currently live with you, always make your scheduled visitations. Be prompt and dependable about picking up the child. If your child asks you to skip a visitation so he or she can participate in a special activity, you should consider modifying your schedule and asking that visitation be rescheduled at a different time. This shows flexibility and your willingness to put your child’s needs above your own.
Tip #4 - If you are the custodial parent, have the child and the other parent work out any changes in the schedule. Do not get caught in the middle. Be flexible to provide another time if possible.
Tip #5 - Keep a detailed diary or calendar of the specific days the child was with you and with the other parent. Note the times of pick up and return of the child. Outline activities that the child engaged in. Do not “pump” your child for information. If you are receiving or paying child support, keep each check number, the date of receipt/payment, and the amount of the check.
Tip #6 - If the child does not live with you, do your best to personally pick up and return your child each time. It is not a good idea to have your secretary, friend, or relative picking up or returning the child, except in emergencies.
Tip #7 - If you are recently separated from the other parent, it is better to not include your boyfriend or girlfriend in any visitation you have with the child. It is not desirable to have new boy- friends or girlfriends living with you or spending the night with you when the child is present. It can be upsetting to the child and can appear to the court that you put your needs above your child’s needs and that you lack good judgment concerning the child. Also, be certain to investigate the character of any adult friends you permit to be around the child.
Tip #8 - Always be certain that the child uses seat belts or car seats.
Tip #9 - Be alert to avoid activities that could leave you vulnerable to claims of sexual misconduct with your child. These include bathing with the child, letting him or her sleep in your bed, and being nude with the child.
Tip #10 - Make sure your home and other places you take the child are safe. If you have guns, ammunition, or weapons, make sure they are securely locked in a cabinet. Also, keep your home clean so you will not be confronted with photos of litter, beer cans, clutter, etc.