Most often, child custody battles are fought in court because ex-couples are unable to arrive at a mutually-acceptable out-of-court agreement on parenting their kids. Parents are generally aware that the outcome of the verdict will have a tremendous impact on their child’s future.
This is exactly what makes the process scary since you don’t want an undeserving parent to win custody, while the worthy parent is unable to do anything about it.
With adequate and proper planning, however, this scenario can be avoided. All it takes is a little preparation to legally keep your children with yourself. You can begin by ridding yourself of the anger and depression from the divorce and calming down. Emotional outbursts are certain to ruin your chances of winning custody.
The cold hard fact is that custody battles are complex in nature. You cannot afford to go to court unprepared and expect a favorable verdict to fall into your lap.
Here are a few pointers to bear in mind when preparing for a child custody hearing.
Familiarize Yourself with Child Custody Laws in Your State
Child custody and child support laws vary by state, which is why it is crucial that you acquaint yourself with your state’s laws and gain a general understanding of them before the hearing. Work with a local lawyer to get a tight grip on the basics of the legalities involved so you don’t feel lost during the proceedings.
If you’re a resident of Oak Brook, Illinois, for example, it’ll help you if you’re aware that the child custody laws in this state allow parents and guardians the option of joint custody and recognize grandparent visitation rights, among other things. You can prepare yourself accordingly. For best results, work with a divorce lawyer as he/she will help you ask the right questions throughout the proceedings.
Ready the Required Documents
Before the hearing date, start collecting and organizing all the necessary documents that support your cause. Your lawyer will tell you about the documents you will need to produce in court during the child custody hearing. Some of these include visitation schedules, the child’s schedule, custody analysis, phone call logs, and legal paperwork.
Stick to the Better-Parent Standard
The judge will, typically, try to decipher who is the “better” parent for the child before deciding on awarding custody. This is what it all boils down to and is quite difficult to prove. Some of the factors at play include the parent’s availability, income, and criminal record.
These are taken into consideration so the judge can decide which parent is better than the other and hence, for the child. Work with your local lawyer to understand exactly which factors the courts in your state consider. He/she will be able to guide you on how you can present yourself as the better parent to your child.
Prepare Your Testimony
Both parents are usually required to testify at the custody hearing. Sometimes, the testimony plays the decisive role in the judicial proceeding. Focus on doing your best in this aspect. Further, you will also need to prepare for responding to cross-questioning by the other parent. This can include some intense interrogation, and you need to be ready to face this challenge if the need arises.
You can speak to other individuals who can prove to be critical witnesses in the custody hearing. These people are members of your family, close friends, and professionals like social workers. Of course, they will need to be identified for and informed about the hearing well in advance as they will be summoned by the court for making an appearance. They will also need to prepare for it accordingly.
Know How to Make a Good Impression on the Judge
It is obvious that parents involved in a child custody case need to put their best foot forward in court, or they can lose custody. Talk to your lawyer about what proper courtroom etiquette entails, the dos and don’ts, and how you’re expected to behave. If you can, practice with your lawyer in advance to gain confidence.
In addition, focus on making a good first impression by dressing appropriately as the judge may form an opinion of you based on your appearance. It is, therefore, crucial you dress to look who you are – a responsible, sensible adult. Keep your attire ready accordingly.
Be Mentally Prepared
You and your attorney will probably discuss the ideal custody scenario. This can mean sole custody, a 50/50 custody or weekend visitation rights. To achieve this, you will need to produce sufficient arguments and evidence in your support in court. However, be mentally prepared for a less-than-ideal verdict during the custody hearing. This will help you come to terms with it in a quicker and healthier manner. It can also help you gear up for a co-parenting arrangement.
Child custody hearings can be daunting, but with sufficient preparation and help from an experienced attorney, you can significantly up your chances of winning the case. This entails doing your homework in terms of paperwork, creating a positive first impression, readying testimonies and witnesses, and making the most of the chance you get to interact with the judge by adhering to the above points. This way, the judge will be able to see that you’ve put in ample effort in your endeavor and perceive you as a proactive, responsible parent. Discuss all these aspects with your lawyer so you can give your best shot and get the verdict you deserve.