Child custody cases are rarely a pleasant experience for anyone. Even when they go smoothly, it still means several people’s lives are thrown into complete disarray. And the fact is that if custody could be decided smoothly, there wouldn’t be a court case.
What this means in practical terms is that it’s important to understand how custody is determined. Now, keep in mind that this is a general explanation. Different states have different laws, and not every judge interprets the same thing the same way. It doesn’t help that some particularly vindictive ex-spouses will make things up just to make the other parent look bad.
Presuming all other things are normal, the court will look at a few different things. One is finances. Having more money doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll win, but it does mean you have the ability to give your child a higher quality of life.
In addition to finances, the court will look at overall stability. How long have you been at your current job? What is your job, and does it provide a steady paycheck? Not so much “does it pay a high amount”, but more “can you reasonably expect to get the same amount at the same time for the foreseeable future”.
Lastly, the court will want to inspect the child’s home life as well as interpersonal relations. This is a difficult one, and is as much a matter of what the court investigator decides as it is about anything you do. It’s difficult, but try to be understanding that Child Protection Services (usually who does the inspection) is underfunded and so can’t offer a paycheck high enough to entice those who would do a good job. And that’s presuming the CPS inspector isn’t weirdly vindictive.
You should speak with an attorney if you want more information about your specific state. Each state is different, and an attorney may be able to find a sympathetic judge, as well.