Child custody cases can be difficult and emotional. Being a good parent is only part of the equation, and it may be hard to think about splitting your time with your ex-partner. Parents want to believe that the “right” outcome will happen, but this often depends on how your case is presented to the court.
When preparing for a child custody dispute, you want to make sure that you provide your family law attorney with as much information as possible. Family law is complex, and an attorney can guide you through avoiding mistakes that can result in less time with your children.
Here are some things you can do to arm your family law attorney with the best case possible.
During your initial consultation and as your lawyer prepares your case, you should answer all questions thoroughly. Don’t try to hide or cover up anything that you think makes you look bad. Your attorney can decide how to use the information.
Chances are, your ex-partner will have already given that information to his/her attorney, who will use it. If you are caught in a lie, it will look bad before a judge and could harm the outcome of your child custody hearing.
It is better to answer any difficult questions truthfully and provide your attorney with all of the background needed to handle your case.
Prioritize Your Parenting
You might be stressed while you await a court date. However, now is not the time to neglect your parenting. Often, you will have visitation or a split arrangement while you wait for your child custody hearing, and you need to make the most of this time.
Your child custody case will benefit from your involvement as a loving, devoted parent. Do not miss or arrive late for any visitation you may have, as this will come to light in court. You want to show that you are responsible and dedicated to your children, no matter how much stress you face.
Watch Your Own Behavior
In addition to your interactions with your children, you should be mindful of your behavior in general. One of the first places your ex’s attorney may look for information about you is online. Anything you have posted could be used as evidence against you.
Review your social media accounts and delete anything that could be considered inappropriate. This could include drinking excessively, offensive jokes, or anything that paints you in a negative light. Don’t post anything negative about your ex and instead present yourself as a healthy, supportive parent.
As you want to make sure that you are perceived as a wonderful parent, provide your attorney with anything that may work against your ex. This may be hard, especially if you had a good relationship with your ex until the end. At the same time, your focus needs to be on the custody arrangement that favors you the most.
Give your attorney any text messages, videos, emails, or anything else that can be used against your ex. Provide anything that you think might be useful, and your attorney will decide how and when to use that information. You may find that you need to provide updated or ongoing information throughout the preparation of your case.
Often, child custody cases are tied to child support cases. Gather any documentation that shows expenses related to your child. Expenses can include necessities, medical care, child care, entertainment, extracurriculars, college, and more.
Keep Your Life Stable
Now is not the time to be making major life changes. You want to show the court that you have a reliable, stable income and a safe, welcoming home. You don’t want to move or change careers or do anything that shows that you are impulsive.
Talk to your family law attorney if you are in a new relationship or looking to start dating. It could reflect poorly on your case and can be emotional for your children. This is a sensitive issue and needs to be handled with care.
The one exception to life changes is if you are trying to correct something negative in your life. For example, you may want to leave an unstable job for a stable one to show your financial commitment to your children.
Prepare for Your Hearing
When you appear in court for a child custody hearing, you want to make the best impression on the judge. After all, while the case will be decided on the evidence presented, judges are also human.
Child custody cases do not involve juries. The judge will be weighing the fitness of each parent and the best interests of the children. You do want to gain sympathy from the judge as much as possible.
Talk with your lawyer about proper courtroom etiquette so that you know what to expect. You cannot have emotional outbursts or make accusations in the courtroom. If needed, do some role-playing in advance so that you can prepare your responses and control emotions when necessary.
Dress appropriately for the courtroom. You want to wear formal, conservative attire so that your appearance reflects that you are a responsible adult.
Finding the Right Family Law Attorney
The idea of child custody decisions can be overwhelming, particularly if negotiations turn into a battle. Every custody case is unique, and you want to receive the best guidance possible. This can be everything from making your living situation appealing to advising you on handling your relationship with your ex.
You may not realize how much an experienced family law attorney can benefit your case. Your lawyer will be your advocate every step of the way and maximize your chances for a positive outcome.