You need to be prepared for your upcoming custody hearing.
Possibly the only thing that could make a child custody battle worse and more stressful is flopping and floundering during your court hearings. The bottom line is these proceedings are what matter in your custody case, and you need to prepare like it’s the most important thing you’ve ever done. If you’re like the average American, you’re going to have little-to-no experience in the court system. While that is fortunate, it doesn’t do you any favors with your current situation.
Maybe all you know about court is from watching Judge Judy or Judge Joe Brown. While there may be an ounce of reality to those programs, you’ll be a lot better off taking the time to do some homework and researching what your court date will consist of. If you’ve retained legal counsel, they are likely your foremost authority on
this subject and you take any advice they offer you under consideration.
Here are five things you can start doing immediately to prepare for your day in child custody court.
Organize Your Supporting Documents
If you’ve done your due diligence to keep records and documents of your family’s experience with alternating custody, it’s time to get those organized. A visitation schedule should be collected neatly into a single document. Depending on how organized you are, the log may already be this way. However, if you’ve got stacks of notes and loose pieces of paper, your pre-hearing preparation is when you need to clock the time in getting it all together in chronological order.
Engage With Legal Counsel
This part isn’t cheap. But your children are worth it. Once you have everything organized, engage with your retained legal counsel about how those documents can be used. Your lawyer will be able to guide you on how to properly present evidence of neglect or abuse from the other parent. If there is irregular or irresponsible behavior with custody transfers or refusal to abide by a court-ordered custody schedule, a lawyer will be able to help you lay out everything for the greatest impact. You may have the documents, you may have them organized, but if you don’t know how to use them, you’ll be at a disadvantage.
Clearly Understand Your State’s Child Custody Laws
Your particular state’s child custody laws are going to be more nuanced and particular than you expect. It’s complicated, that’s why there is a legal industry devoted to studying laws and trial rulings. You need to know what a judge is looking for and what parameters and authority they have to determine the rulings in your case. Start scouring Youtube and Google for state-relevant child custody information that can capture the nuance of your local statutes and stipulations. There is a high probability there are already vlogs and articles from experts freely available, and you won’t have to paper hour or email to get advice from your counsel.
Understand Courtroom Etiquette
The courtroom is its own world and exists with its own rules and practices. There’ll be expectations on you to act in a certain fashion, whether you have any experience in court or not. Behaving respectfully and within the proper courtroom protocol won’t win your case, but not doing so will definitely hurt you — especially if the other parent is abiding by etiquette. In preparation for your hearing, do some quick research on how to address a judge when called upon or when questioned. You should investigate what is frowned upon, such as outbursts of anger and backhanded comments. If your reckless mouth could land you in contempt of court and derail your case.
Showing up on your hearing date in baggy sweatpants and Reeboks isn’t going to fly in a courtroom. Again, this one isn’t going to give you a win, but dressing sloppily or inappropriately will definitely hurt the court’s image of you and harm you’re standing with the judge. Courts are prioritizing your child’s wellbeing, and your image should portray someone who is put together, competent, and responsible. The last thing you want in court is for you to look ratchet while the other parent looks well-to-do.
Failing to prepare
Failing to prepare, is preparing to fail. These five tips will give you a head start toward getting you ready for your next hearing and provide some practical paths to preparing adequately for your court appearance. Preparing in this way will help you present yourself as articulate and responsible and add a persuasive and compelling element to your case. Things such as understanding state custody law will even save you from miscues or embarrassment, or even worse, fueling the other parent’s case.
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