How to Win a Child Custody Battle

Winning child custody means getting final orders for a custody arrangement that suits you — but most importantly, for an arrangement that suits your child's best interests.

You can get child custody by negotiating a settlement agreement with the other parent and having the court approve it or by convincing a judge to rule in your favor in a trial.

Visualize your schedule. Get a written parenting plan. Calculate your parenting time.

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Even if you go to trial, try not to think of the custody-determination process as a war. While you may have been approaching it as a custody battle, try to switch your mindset to one of custody diplomacy. Children benefit when their parents treat each other as respectfully and maturely as possible.

Keep in mind that winning custody doesn't necessarily mean getting sole custody. Most courts prefer joint legal and joint physical custody, except when cases involve risks to a child's safety like domestic violence. In these situations, judges often order sole physical custody for one parent and supervised parenting time for the one believed to be a risk.

Create a winning parenting plan

To get the settlement you want or to convince a judge to order your preferred custody arrangement, you should create a parenting plan and parenting time schedule that clearly detail your requests and prove you're looking out for your child's best interests.

A parenting plan (sometimes called a custody agreement) explains how you and the other parent share child-rearing rights and responsibilities. It includes an explanation of your legal custody arrangement, your parenting time (visitation) schedule and rules for how you'll co-parent.

Many courts require parenting plans, and others strongly encourage them. Even if your court doesn't require one, you should still make a parenting plan — showing the judge that you're organized and prioritizing your child's needs can go a long way in helping you get custody.

Your parenting plan should include anything your court requires, as well as customized provisions tailored to your family and child. The more specific and organized your plan, the more effectively it demonstrates to the court your capability as a parent.

An effective parenting plan includes:

  • A detailed parenting time schedule that meets your child's and family's needs
  • Explanations of how parents will make decisions about the child's upbringing (education, health care, religious participation, discipline, etc.)
  • Arrangements for how parents will share child-rearing expenses
  • Rules for how parents will communicate with each other and resolve parenting disagreements
  • Customized provisions to address your family's unique situation

You can hire a lawyer or mediator to create your plan, or you can make your own with Custody X Change. Even if a professional is making your final plan, it's a good idea to make your own preliminary version to show what provisions you want.

With a Custody X Change parenting plan, you can:

  • Make a written and visual parenting time schedule with holidays, vacations and special events
  • Choose from more than 140 customizable provisions to guide co-parenting
  • Calculate your parenting time for your child support calculation
  • Print custody calendars, provisions and detailed parenting time reports
  • Save everything as Word, Excel and PDF documents
  • Export your custody calendar to your calendar app

Track your actual custody situation

While your case is in progress, it's helpful to keep a detailed record of your actual custody situation. This information helps you create a parenting plan that works best for your child and, if necessary, can be used in negotiations and as evidence in court.

Once you have your final orders, tracking parenting time and keeping detailed records help to make sure both parents follow the orders. These tasks also provide evidence if you need to return to court to have your orders enforced or modified.

With Custody X Change, you can:

Succeed in negotiations or mediation

The best way to win child custody is to work with the other parent to make a custody agreement both of you support. This helps avoid a long, expensive court battle and makes your parenting plan easier to follow.

You can negotiate an agreement with the other parent on your own or through lawyers.

Mediation offers a less adversarial approach, in which an unbiased custody and dispute resolution expert helps you and the other parent communicate and compromise. Depending on your case, your court may require you to attempt mediation. Many courts offer free or low-cost mediation, and some parents choose to hire a private mediator.

For negotiation or mediation sessions, you should bring a parenting plan and parenting time schedule that clearly detail the custody arrangements you want. Consider making multiple plans and schedules so you can present options.

Custody X Change can help you successfully negotiate the custody arrangement you want by:

  • Providing organization and clarity that help ease stress and tension
  • Making it easy to look at options for your parenting time schedule
  • Allowing you to personalize co-parenting provisions that work for both parents and support your child's needs
  • Equipping you with clear visuals of your parenting time schedule, actual parenting time reports and more

When you reach an agreement, simply print your parenting plan to submit to the court with your settlement documents (or save them as PDFs to submit electronically, if your court allows this).

Present a winning case in court

If you can't reach an agreement with the other parent, you'll go to court so a judge can decide custody. Both parents can argue for the custody arrangement they want. If you have a lawyer, they'll argue in court for you.

Whether you have a lawyer or you're representing yourself, showing the judge your detailed parenting plan can help you win a custody battle. Support your argument with evidence such as parenting time calculations, parenting journal entries, messaging transcripts, expense records and more.

You can create and organize all of this in one place with Custody X Change. Easily print what you need for court to help convince the judge to rule in your favor.

Winning child custody with Custody X Change

Whether you take your case to mediation, negotiate an agreement on your own or with lawyers, or go to trial, Custody X Change can help you every step of the way.

Take advantage of custody technology to get what's best for your child and win custody.

Visualize your schedule. Get a written parenting plan. Calculate your parenting time.

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Explore examples of common schedules

Explore common schedules

Join the 60,000+ other parents who have used our co-parenting tools

Organize your evidence

Track your expenses, journal what happens, and record actual time. Print organized, professional documents.

Co-parent civilly

Our parent-to-parent messaging system, which detects hostile language, lets you collaborate without the drama.

Get an accurate child support order

Child support is based on parenting time or overnights in most jurisdictions. Calculate time instead of estimating.

Succeed by negotiating

Explore options together with visual calendars and detailed parenting plans. Present alternatives and reach agreement.

Never forget an exchange or activity

Get push notifications and email reminders, sync with other calendar apps and share with the other parent.

Save up to $50,000 by avoiding court

Write your parenting agreement without lawyers. Our templates walk you through each step.

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Long distance schedules

Third party schedules


Summer break

Parenting provisions


How to make a schedule

Factors to consider

Parenting plans:

Making a parenting plan

Changing your plan

Interstate, long distance

Temporary plans

Guides by location:

Parenting plans

Scheduling guidelines

Child support calculators

Age guidelines:

Birth to 18 months

18 months to 3 years

3 to 5 years

5 to 13 years

13 to 18 years


Joint physical custody

Sole physical custody

Joint legal custody

Sole legal custody

Product features:

Software overview

Printable calendars

Parenting plan templates

Journal what happens

Expense sharing

Parenting time tracking

Calculate time & overnights

Ways to use:

Succeed by negotiating

Prepare for mediation

Get ready for court


Bring calm to co‑parenting. Agree on a schedule and plan. Be prepared with everything documented.

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