So you want custody of your children when you enter a court in California? The strategy you should probably use is counterintuitive.

Let’s say you have a little boy named John. John would obviously benefit from lifelong interaction with his father. But you’re angry at John’s father, and you’re bitter about the way he treated you, even though he always treated your son in a fatherly way. You go to court and do nothing but badmouth your ex because you’re thinking that you know the best for your child.

However, this isn’t the best tactic if you want custody of your child. This isn’t the kind of thing the judge wants to see. He doesn’t expect you to walk into court and be the best parent he’s ever seen, and he probably doesn’t expect you not to be angry at your ex for one reason or another. He does expect you to keep yourself under control in his court room and, ultimately, look beyond your own feelings about your ex and look at what is best for little John.

You know your son will benefit from at least visitation rights, if not joint custody. So when you walk into the courtroom, put all of your feelings aside and think about what is good for John. Tell the judge that you are a good parent and deserve custody, but that your ex is also a good parent and should be able to see his child.

It’s true; you might not be the perfect parent. But a good parent does what’s best for the child involved. In most cases, allowing the child to spend time with both of you will only benefit him as he grows and learns important lessons from both parents.