Attending your first child custody hearing can be scary, especially if you’re not already aware of the process. But just a little planning can make all the difference when fighting for ample time with your kids.
In addition to following these tips on how to prepare for a child custody hearing, you will want to work closely with an experienced child custody attorney.
1. Know Your State’s Child Custody Laws
Each state will differ in terms of their child custody laws, so it’s important to research those in the state in where the hearing will be held. Also be sure to read the fine print, regardless of how tedious, because it will give you an idea of what to expect from the hearing.
If you stay updated on the latest laws regarding divorce and child custody, this info can help your prepare a list of questions to ask your attorney before the hearing.
2. Know the Better-Parent Standard
When a parent requests sole custody, the better-parent standard comes into play. In this case, the judge must be fully convinced that one parent is not fit to care for the child, which can be difficult for the other parent to prove.
One of the best ways of preparing for a child custody hearing is to find out the behaviors your court is looking for and ask your attorney how you can show that you are the best provider for your children.
3. Participate in Mediation
In some states, courts will require you to attempt to resolve the child custody hearing using a neutral, third-party mediator before bringing the case to a judge. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
Take mediation seriously and prepare for it to the same extent as you would a custody hearing. While this situation is more relaxed, you should still bring all necessary documents with you as well as some parenting plans as optional solutions.
If you are able to come to an agreement with the other parent during mediation, this solution will serve as the foundation of the court order and become legally enforceable.
If you are not able to come to an agreement with the other parent, the mediator will usually provide a recommendation or report regarding the result of the custody dispute. These outcomes usually have a lot of weight and will greatly influence the judge’s decision.
4. Bring All Necessary Documents to Court
The documents you need for your child custody hearing will depend on the state laws regarding the topic. Work with your child custody lawyer to determine which documents you will need.
If you are asking for child custody, you will need to file a petition, but if the other parent has already filed one, you must file an answer to theirs. You will have about 30 days to file an answer to the other parent. But if you miss the deadline, you will most likely miss the opportunity to tell the judge you disagree with the other parent’s wishes.
If there is also a problem regarding child support or maintenance payments, there is a financial declaration – usually found in the clerk’s office – that provides information regarding your income and expenses.
In addition to these documents, it would be a good idea to bring a detailed phone log, proof of child support payments, annotated visitation schedule, and additional notes to help your case.
5. Know your Court Room Etiquette and Attire
Simply not arriving to court in proper attire can risk losing custody of your children. Those who arrive in appropriate attire will have a positive first impression; you only get one chance. Be sure to discuss proper attire with your lawyer to gain a good perspective of what is appropriate.
In addition, speak with them regarding any inappropriate etiquette, like accusations of/from the other parent or their attorney, or emotional outbursts.
It’s recommended to roleplay with your attorney to best be prepared.
6. Know What to Expect During the Hearing
Thankfully, child custody hearings are not as aggressive as other hearings. Parents will win custody if they are prepared and know exactly what to expect in each step of the case.
Something specific to know is that a jury will not be present during child custody cases; they are only for civil and criminal cases. Your case will be presented in front of a judge and they will make the decision to issue a child custody order. You do have the right to appeal an order, but it won’t be decided by the jury.
Work with a Child Custody Attorney
When it comes to having custody of your children, you should know what to expect and be well-prepared, even for the worst, this is only part of the work. Working with an experienced child custody attorney will significantly improve your chances of getting the time you want with your children.
When searching for an attorney, choose one who is experienced in diverse cases so they will know how to react in any given circumstance. They should also know your case in detail, such as understanding your wishes, information regarding the children, the behavior of the other parent, child support, etc. The more information they have, the better your chances of getting what you want.
If you live near Oak Lawn, IL or the southern suburbs of Chicago, the law office of Berry K. Tucker & Associates, Ltd. is a skilled and well-qualified child custody law firm. They have over 50 years of combined legal experience, working close with parents who seek joint or full custody of their children. We ensure to listen to each detail of your case, ask the necessary questions, and conduct all research to best prepare for your child custody hearing.
Get a Free Consultation
To request a free consultation with our child custody attorneys, contact Berry K. Tucker & Associates, Ltd. at (708) 425-9530.