When a parent is about to be involved in a child custody battle, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by anxiety and fear. Yet neither emotion is helpful when seeking to present a convincing case for custody to the court. If you find yourself terrified of a coming child custody battle, try to focus in on the first step: the first child custody hearing.
The first child custody hearing can be stressful bordering on scary, particularly for parents who aren’t familiar with the court process. To minimize the stress, consider doing a bit of advanced planning so you’re ready when your family law attorney presents your case.
Preparing for a Child Custody Battle:
- Understand Child Custody Laws: Child custody laws vary by state, so even if you have experience or knowledge of a child custody situation, the same laws may not apply in your case. Know the child custody laws in the state where the hearing will be held before attending the hearing. Prepare a list of questions to ask your attorney before your court date arrives.
- Understand the Best Interests of the Child Standard: The paramount concern for the court during your hearings is likely to be what is in the best interests of the child. The court is not there to micro-manage decisions that parents make regarding their children – but they are concerned with how those decisions may or may not be in the best interest of the child/children at issue. Consult with your attorney prior to the hearing to pinpoint the best way to present how your child’s best interests may be served with the plan you are proposing.
- Bring the Right Documentation to the Hearing: Your attorney will advise you what documents you will need to bring with you to your child custody hearing and can also tell you whether personal records will be admissible in court. If your attorney requests that you bring a detailed phone log, text messages, emails, social media posts, proof of child support payments, a journal of visitation, etc. make sure to provide that documentation to your attorney well in advance of the hearing so that he or she can be fully prepared.
- Learn Courtroom Etiquette: Behaving properly in court is important. Avoid emotional outbursts or accusatory statements. If you are nervous about how to behave in court, do some role playing with your attorney in advance as inappropriate behavior in the court room could affect your chances for custody. As a client of Stanley-Wallace Law, you will also be provided with information regarding proper court room etiquette in advance of your hearing.
- Know What to Expect at the Hearing: Did you know that child custody cases are not heard before a jury? That is reserved for criminal or civil cases. Child custody cases are presented in front of a judge and the judge will usually make an immediate decision and issue a child-custody order. Some cases are heard before a hearing officer and that hearing officer may facilitate the parents to come to an agreement without the necessity of a court hearing. Parents seeking custody should know what to expect in advance so they can prepare to the best of their ability by anticipating each step of the process. In an effort to help our clients become more familiar with the process (and also because she is a law-nerd), Kristen Stanley-Wallace has drafted a helpful flow-chart that she can review with clients, and that they can often refer to, when they are confused about what comes next.
- Dress Appropriately: Parents hoping to win custody should strive to make a positive impression on the judge by dressing appropriately. Proper courtroom attire is necessary to make a good first impression on the judge. Formal, conservative clothing tends to send the message that you are a responsible adult.
If you are facing a child custody battle or you have questions about the better parent standard, please get in touch with one of the experienced family law attorneys at Stanley-Wallace Law as soon as possible. We are dedicated to helping you achieve your goals.