Lawyer Jacqueline Harounian makes a list at the Huffington Post. If the children are older it might be too late to make up for not being the primary caregiver, but her instructions should be followed to the letter:
1. Not being the primary caretaker: In most households, one parent is most responsible for caring for the children’s basic needs — the so called primary caretaker. The parent who is the most involved in the children’s daily lives usually has the edge in a custody case. Therefore, if you are not putting in the time to do homework with your child, feeding, bathing, reading, taking him or her to the bus stop, you are at a disadvantage in a custody case. There is no better way to lose custody than to demonstrate to a judge that you are simply not involved in raising your child.
2. Not being active in your child’s schedule and activities: Do you know the names of your child’s teachers? Have you ever supervised your child on a play date or taken your child to the doctor? Do you regularly attend school conferences and school events? If the answer to these is no, then it is an indication that someone else (i.e. the other parent) is the primary caretaker, not you.
4. Leaving a paper trail that will hang you in court: Thanks to new technology, virtually every custody trial features the submission of evidence that can be used to portray the other parent in a very damaging light. Sometimes the evidence can make or break the custody case. The evidence can include text messages, photos and negative emails. Also potentially harmful are video and voice mail recordings (a la Alec Baldwin). If you are prone to sending impulsive emails and texts, ranting and raving at the other parent, third parties, or your own child, you are at risk of losing custody.
7. Failing to follow your attorney’s advice: Going through a divorce and/or custody proceeding is one of the most stressful experiences there is. Whether you are seeking primary custody of your children, joint decision making, or a customized parenting plan, your goal should be to survive the process while protecting your rights to your most valuable asset — your children. It is critical that you seek out the advice of an experienced family law attorney, who has handled contested custody trials (not the attorney who did the closing on your house, or the lawyer who charges the lowest retainer to do an uncontested divorce.) With an experienced advocate by your side, you can avoid making the mistakes outlined above, and you can be successful in your custody case.