Court appearances can be quite frightening, especially when the custody of your child is being determined. Parents should walk into all child custody proceedings as prepared as possible. Here's some information about what to expect during family court proceedings:
Unlike a criminal matter, a family matter is less adversarial. The matter is generally presented in a much smaller setting than one might imagine. The typical courtroom used for child custody proceedings is much smaller and more intimate, with very few people.
Limited Time Frame
Judges, mediators, and custody adjudicators hear a number of cases on a daily basis. Therefore, there's a strong chance that a child custody case won't last very long, because there might be a number of sessions being conducted. Parents participating in child custody proceedings should work with their attorneys to synthesize all information and be prepared to put their best foot forward in a short amount of time.
During a child custody proceeding, the following parties will speak:
- Child (if the child is of an age to make an informed decision)
- Witnesses (including workers, school officials, etc.)
The parties will testify about their experiences with the child and the parents. The parties may also form an opinion on which parent may be better suited to serve as the primary parent to the child.
After both parties have presented their side in defense of a particular custody arrangement, a judge will render his/her decision. When reaching a determination for child custody, a judge will make a decision based on the child's best interests. A judge's decision will include:
- Which parent will be considered the custodial parent
- A visitation schedule, including holidays and weekends, when the non-custodial parent is entitled to visitation
A parent who would like more information about what to expect during a child custody hearing should speak to his/her attorney or visit a public child custody hearing to prepare themselves for the child custody case. The best thing for parents to do is to prepare in advance. By preparing, a parent will be in the best position to win their child custody case.