Court appearances can be quite frightening, especially when the custody of your child is being determined. Parents should walk into all child custody proceedings as prepared as possible. Here's some information about what to expect during family court proceedings and how to prepare for the best possible outcomes.
Tips for Preparation
When you enter a court to argue for child custody, it's important to be as prepared as possible.
Preparation means having your arguments lined up, but it also means bringing along the right people and dressing appropriately.
- Prepare your arguments. If you have a lawyer, they will help you with this; if not, you yourself can think through such important questions as "do I have a suitable living arrangement for my child?" and "can I provide the emotional support my child needs?"
- Prepare answers to possible questions. If you have a full-time job and a young child, for example, it's likely the judge will ask "where will your child go after school?" If you're living in a one-bedroom apartment, the judge will want to know where your child will sleep. Have answers to such questions ready to go.
- Bring along people such as babysitters or teachers who can accurately and effectively support your claims of being a top-notch parent.
- Wear formal, conservative clothing, hairstyle, and makeup that sends the message "I'm a responsible adult."
Expect a Small Setting
Unlike a criminal matter, a family matter is less adversarial. The matter is generally presented in a much smaller setting than one might imagine. The typical courtroom used for child custody proceedings is much smaller and more intimate than courtrooms shown on television, and very few people will be in the room.
Expect a Limited Time Frame
Judges, mediators, and custody adjudicators hear a number of cases on a daily basis. Therefore, there's a strong chance that a child custody case won't last very long because there might be a number of sessions being conducted. Parents participating in child custody proceedings should work with their attorneys to synthesize all information and be prepared to put their best foot forward in a short amount of time.
Plan for Multiple Testimonies
During a child custody proceeding, the following parties will speak:
- Child (if the child is of an age to make an informed decision)
- Witnesses (including workers, school officials, etc.)
The parties will testify about their experiences with the child and the parents. The parties may also form an opinion on which parent may be better suited to serve as the primary parent to the child.
Anticipate an Immediate Decision
After both parties have presented their side in defense of a particular custody arrangement, a judge will render his/her decision. When reaching a determination for child custody, a judge will make a decision based on the child's best interests. A judge's decision will include:
- Which parent will be considered the custodial parent
- A visitation schedule, including holidays and weekends, when the non-custodial parent is entitled to visitation
A parent who would like more information about what to expect during a child custody hearing should speak to his/her attorney or visit a public child custody hearing to prepare themselves for the child custody case. The best thing for parents to do is to prepare in advance. By preparing, a parent will be in the best position to win their child custody case.