Preparing for a custody hearing is often one of the most stressful facets of a divorce. It’s not unusual to spend many sleepless nights worrying about your children and how the situation is affecting them. Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to gain control of the situation and reduce your worries. Here are nine ways to prepare for the smoothest custody hearing possible:
Show a willingness to work with your ex.
Parents may choose to separate, but they are life-long partners in raising a child. The goal should be to make the overall situation better for the child by finding creative and amicable ways to share responsibilities. Approaching custody in this way will not only help protect the emotional development of your child, but it is looked upon favorably by the court.
Exercise your right to see your child.
In other words, if you’ve been granted visitation, do everything in your power to show up for every visit – on time. Use those visits to spend quality time with your child, including doing everyday things like homework and chores. Try to maintain as much consistency in your child’s life as possible.
Tune out the negative things your ex may be saying about you.
This may be one of the most difficult things to do when you’re going through a divorce. The court looks favorably upon parents who can “take the high road” and set their personal feelings about the other parent aside. Focus on being a loving, competent, and an engaged parent and the court will notice.
Conversely, don’t make up negative stories about your ex.
Making up stories is not only harmful to your child’s relationship with you and the other parent, but it also harms your case. Any lies you present will come back and be used against you.
Do what the court requests of you.
Sometimes the court makes special requests of separating parents. For example, the court may require parenting classes or counseling. Show the court how committed you are to your child and their well-being and do what is necessary.
Do not put your child in the middle.
No matter how mature your child may seem, their job right now is to be a kid. Discussions of divorce details or why the other parent made you angry last night should never be had with your child. Find a friend or counselor you can discuss your frustrations with, not your child.
Plan to be on time.
Do not be late for any appointments or court hearings. Leave early enough so that you know you will be there on time; early is even better. Being late for court proceedings is a poor reflection upon you.
Behave respectfully in court.
Keep in mind that your tone of voice and body language say a lot about who you are as an individual. You should speak openly, yet honestly while avoiding berating your ex. Keep the focus on the children as that is why you are at the proceeding.
Maintain composure during all proceedings.
When you arrive, as well as once proceedings begin, do your best to remain as calm and collected as possible. You’ve worked very hard to prepare for this day. Do not ruin it by yelling insults at your ex, making faces, or carrying on in other inappropriate ways.
To best prepare yourself for your custody hearing, it’s advisable to schedule a consult with an attorney. Your attorney will be able to answer all of your questions and help put your mind at ease while you prepare for your custody hearing.
Contact us for questions you may have.
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About the Author: Kyle M. Janes
Kyle grew up in Meadville and attended Meadville Area Senior High. He attended college at Allegheny College. Upon graduating from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, Kyle returned to Meadville to serve the community where he grew up.
Kyle has a diverse family law practice, including divorce, support, custody, juvenile dependency, adoption, pre-nuptial agreements, protection from abuse, and other domestic relations issues. His compassion for his clients and his knowledge of the law allow him to work on a full range of cases, from simple to complex.