Ask a Divorce Lawyer: What’s the best strategy to get the custody I want?

Question: My wife has been cheating on me. When I found out I confronted her and she told me all about the affair. I don’t have any physical evidence though. 

We have a 3 year old and I want joint custody with me as the primary caregiver. What should I do to try and get the custody that I want?


Answer: I am not licensed in the State of Virginia so I am only able to answer this question based upon general practice.  Therefore, the specific answer in Virginia may differ. 

Most jurisdictions base child custody on what is in the “best interest of the child.”  In the locations I practice her affair would not have any direct impact on the custody determination.  However, if her affair was taking her away from caring for the children or the boyfriend has a negative criminal history there could be an impact.

Here are some tips:

Generally you want to be available and as involved with your child as possible (cut back on overtime or travel for work for example).  

Take all the custody time that is scheduled in a temporary custody arrangement (do not hand off custody time to your relatives unless absolutely necessary.  Do not hire baby sitters during your custody time.  If scheduled, you are the person with your child through the divorce process).  

Follow the custody arrangement and do not violate the terms by not returning your child on time ( be on time and have the child ready to return to mother.  Do not speak negatively about the child’s mother to the child or to others when the child is present).  

Be on time with any support orders (do not put yourself in a negative light with the judge). 

Be a positive co-parent with your wife, even if she refuses you the same courtesy (if your child needs to see the doctor, call your wife and ask if she wishes to attend before the appointment is scheduled.  Send home copies of any important documents from daycare or extracurricular activities).  

Keep a journal of your activities with your child.  Include in the journal any issues you have regarding your child with your to be ex-wife.   This would include any problems with custody exchanges, times she refuses scheduled custody, violations of your legal custody rights.  

Fix any negatives in your parenting (if you have anger issues, get them under control.  If you have alcohol issues, get help immediately.)


Spencer E. Williams is the Team Leader over St Louis, St Charles, Indianapolis and Arnold (Jefferson County, MO) offices of Cordell & Cordell, P.C. where he practices exclusively in the area of domestic relations. Mr. Williams has tried numerous cases dealing with complex custody issues, maintenance, business assets and personal asset division. 

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