Prepare for a Child Custody Hearing

Important tips for your child custody hearing

Going to your first child custody hearing can be scary, especially for parents who are unfamiliar with the child custody process. However, with just a little planning in advance, you can present a convincing case and win child custody. In addition to working closely with your child custody lawyer, use the following resources to prepare for your custody hearing.

6 Important Tips for Your Child Custody Hearing

Understand the Child Custody Laws in Your State

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Child custody laws vary from state to state. Therefore, one of the first things you need to do is become familiar with the child custody laws in the state that are handling your custody hearing. Reading the fine print can be tedious, but it will help you to find out for yourself what you're up against before attending your child custody hearing. Reading up on the latest laws can also help you prepare a list of questions to ask your lawyer as your court date approaches.

Understand the Better Parent Standard

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The better parent standard comes into play when a parent requests sole custody. Essentially, the judge has to be convinced that one parent is better than the other, which can be difficult to prove. To best prepare for your child custody hearing, be sure to find out what courts in your state are looking for and consult with your lawyer about how to show yourself to be the best caregiver for your children.

Bring the Right Documents to Court

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Work with your lawyer to determine what documents to bring to your child custody hearing and whether your own personal records will be admissible. He or she may suggest that you bring a detailed phone log, annotated visitation schedule, proof of child support payments, and other notes. 

Learn Proper Courtroom Etiquette

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Parents who hope to win child custody must behave appropriately in court or risk losing the child custody hearing. Discuss proper courtroom etiquette with your lawyer to get a better understanding of what is expected, as well as any pitfalls you need to be on the lookout for. In addition, do some role playing with your lawyer in advance, if possible, and make sure that you understand the expectations outlined prior to your appearance in court.

Know What to Expect During Your Child Custody Hearing

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Child custody hearings tend to be less adversarial or combative than other types of court cases. Parents seeking to win child custody should know what to expect in advance so that they can best be prepared and anticipate each step of the process. One detail that many people don't know is that child custody cases are not heard before a jury; that is reserved for criminal cases. Your case will be presented in front of the judge, and he or she will make decisions and issue a child custody order. You will have the right to appeal the order, but it will not be decided by a jury.

How to Dress for Your Child Custody Hearing

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Finally, parents who hope to win child custody should prepare to make a positive first impression. Proper courtroom attire should never be overlooked. You only get one chance to make a good first impression on the judge. Before he hears your case or even knows your child's name, he will form an opinion of you based appearance. So talk to your lawyer about what to wear and make sure that you present yourself in the very best light at your child custody hearing.

Edited by Jennifer Wolf.