Ideally, agreeing to a parenting plan should be easy. However, that is usually not the case, and compulsory family dispute resolution has not always been the solution. Going to your first child custody hearing can be daunting. And more so when there is the risk of one or both parties getting disappointed with the court’s decision. Yet, you can convincingly present your case to win your child custody with the right planning. Here are four tips to prepare you ahead of the big day.
- Know the law
It’s usually good to brush up on the laws governing custody and parental responsibility. You are likely to share parental responsibility with the other parent unless the court orders differently based on issues relating to safety, family violence, and others. Child custody laws can vary from one state to another, and knowing the relevant legislation can help you better prepare to speak with your lawyer about your hearing. Reading the fine print can feel tedious, but knowing what you are up against is practical.
- Be a better parent
The better-parent standard is usually applied when one parent seeks sole custody. But unless there is a drug concern or family violence issue, family law courts usually don’t give exclusive custody. Even in such situations, you want to demonstrate to the court that you are the better parent. There are a few ways you can prove to be an excellent parent, including keeping a file of your child’s important documents such as birth certificates, academic transcripts, health records and so on. It is best to learn how to communicate effectively to demonstrate that the child is much safer with you.
- Know what to expect
Your lawyer should be able to inform you exactly what kind of paperwork you’ll need for your court appearance. This may include personal documents, documentation of child support payments, detailed phone logs, visitation schedule and current custody plan. If there is a case of abuse, you should be able to provide a document to prove that. Your lawyer will most likely advise you to bring everything with you.
- Courtroom etiquette
It is vital to know what is expected of you when you appear in court. Your lawyer may prepare you with some role-playing. It is okay to be human, but you want to avoid emotional outbursts and accusations. You can’t allow anything to get under your skin, especially your children. You can’t behave inappropriately and expect to win custody.
- Dress appropriately
Lastly, a first impression is important if you want to obtain child custody, and proper courtroom clothing cannot be overemphasised. You only have one chance to make a solid first impression. They will form an opinion based on your appearance, even without knowing your child’s name or hearing your case. Appropriate attire may vary depending on your region or season, but the goal is to look mature and responsible.
In case your hearing is virtual, and you don’t get to be in court physically, it can be useful to get an ecourts consultant to coordinate all your hearing requirements and support pre and post-hearing.