It’s not uncommon for American couples to go through a divorce, but adding children to the mix often complicates matters. Some couples sort out child custody via a divorce agreement and others must hire a lawyer.
If you have an upcoming child custody hearing, it’s important to know what to expect ahead of time. You likely won’t get a favorable outcome if you don’t take time to properly prepare.
Read on to learn crucial details you need to know before entering child custody court.
Research State Practices
First, find out what child custody practices look like in your particular state. Doing so helps you get an idea of what to expect and how to build a valid case.
Pay careful attention to details involving custodial rights and different custody definitions. For example, you can find out what the split between parenting time looks like with joint custody arrangements. Make sure to research terminology relevant to custody, too.
You’ll also need a firm understanding of the rules of evidence before your hearing. If you’re not married, make sure to research paternity laws in your state.
Keep in mind that family law is usually challenging to grasp and you don’t need to comprehend every detail. Just focus on the details relevant to your custody case and hire a divorce lawyer if you need aid.
Design a Parenting Plan
You need to create a parenting plan before you enter court for your custody hearing. Make sure you can explain why your plan is the most suitable choice for your child.
You can add specific parenting rules as you create your parenting plan. For example, consider things like religion in your child’s upbringing and rules for extended family members and friends.
Next, you’ll want to research popular schedules for parenting and choose one that best fits your circumstances. Include specific rules for traveling and vacations. Also, consider special dates such as the child’s birthday, parents’ birthdays, and holidays.
You must develop a visitation schedule for your plan that covers parenting times. Along with visitation details, think about how you want to communicate with the other parent, too.
Include other important details such as how to manage large expenses, educational decisions, and medical decisions. Once you complete your parenting plan checklist, you’ll feel much more prepared before your hearing.
Collecting evidence is a crucial component of your case. You won’t have a case at all without proof to back it up.
Examples of evidence include criminal records, medical history, and other authorized documents. Gather relevant pictures and videos of you with your child. Always keep messages between parents and consider keeping a parenting journal.
You can include your parenting plan as evidence, just make sure you write it so that it’s ready for court. You can also bring a visual calendar of the schedule you created.
In addition to the visual calendar, include a parenting time report. The report explains what percentage of time each parent would spend with the child.
You must organize an exhibit list that explains everything you’ll cover in court. If you hire a lawyer, they’ll handle the exhibit list for you.
It’s critical to gather witnesses that can help you prove your claims. Witnesses convey any personal knowledge they have of a child’s relationship with their parent. They can also divulge any information they have about a parent’s demeanor and health.
Examples of witnesses for child custody hearings include close friends, family members, and teachers. In some cases, mental health counselors and medical doctors might make relevant witnesses.
Generally, witnesses show up to court in person to speak. However, some courts allow character reference letters if a witness isn’t available on the day of the hearing.
Appropriate Court Behavior
You can expect your behavior in court to affect the judge’s verdict. For starters, never talk out of turn during your custody hearing. Make sure to speak clearly and answer questions directly.
Try your absolute best to keep your feelings in check even though it might be an emotional day. Lastly, make sure to wear business casual clothing to your hearing.
If you follow those rules, you’ll make a great impression in court. The goal is to show the judge that you have the ability to care for your child and set good examples.
Questions to Ask
You can ask your lawyer or a court employee several questions ahead of the hearing so you know what to expect. Start by asking who will be present in the courtroom for your hearing so that you don’t get caught off guard.
Next, ask about the order of proceedings and confirm the documents you need to have with you. Find out if the judge typically makes a final determination on the day of the hearing, or at a later date.
Finding answers to these basic questions can help relieve anxiety before your day in court. If you’re relaxed, you can present your case better and show the judge that you’re a calm and prepared individual.
Child Custody Hearing Preparedness
A little extra preparation goes a long way when it comes to a successful child custody hearing. We hope this guide helps clear up the basics so that you know what to expect in court.
If you have any remaining questions, you can contact us at the Maduabum Law Firm. Our skilled team of lawyers proudly serves the entire state of New Jersey.