Child custody court is that last place anyone wants to end up. But when parents cannot come to an agreement, or when there are allegations of serious issues like abuse in the home, sometimes a family has no choice.
If you are considering a child custody suit, here are five concerns you should keep in mind.
1. Courts Want You to Settle
If you are in a child custody battle, understand that the judges, social workers, and everyone involved will try to persuade you to come to an agreement with your partner.
Court calendars are flooded. Judges hear thousands of cases every year.
Going to court means taking time off of work, getting your child evaluated, and the risk that the judge could rule against you. It can be expensive at a time when money is scarce.
It is worth trying to find a way to come to an agreement with your child’s other parent without going before a judge. An experienced lawyer or mediator may be able to help. It will save time, money, and the possibility that your child might have to testify about your family’s personal life.
A good child custody attorney should be able to negotiate a settlement with your ex. This will remove the need for a trial. He or she can negotiate your demands for custody, child support, and other conditions.
2. Custody Battles Are Public and Painful
Sometimes a couple cannot reach an agreement. If they go into court, a lot of dirty laundry may be aired.
Because the court must decide what is best for your child’s welfare, many personal details may be deemed relevant. A child custody lawyer may need to question you about your finances, sex life, and past behavior with your family members.
Because court proceedings are a matter of public record, everything from your health to your fights with your partner may end up on the internet or in a newspaper. If you testify, lawyers may ask you extremely personal questions and your answers will be available for anyone to see.
Your child may also be subjected to this kind of scrutiny. They may need to testify if the judge determines they’re mature enough to handle it and their testimony is critical. They may be asked in the presence of both parents which parent they would like to live with, a very difficult question for a kid of any age.
They will be interviewed by doctors and therapists who will testify about their physical and mental state. Many children are embarrassed and traumatized by this kind of public display of their private lives.
3. The Standard Is the Best Interests of the Child
You may believe that your ex is a horrible parent because he lets your kids watch too much TV. You may think you are a better parent because you have more money, or because your parents live nearby and can babysit.
Your opinion on who is the best parent is not the standard in child custody cases. The court will determine custody based on the best interests of the child.
Most experts agree that unless there is evidence of abuse, most children benefit from a relationship with both parents. Where the child lives, and how they can visit the non-custodial parent, will all depend on a number of factors.
A judge will assess the child’s age, needs, routine, and state of mind to determine where he or she would be best suited. Small babies are frequently thought to be better off with their mothers, although this predisposition is no longer certain.
The court will look at where the child has been living, how well he or she has been taken care of in the past, and where they will be safest.
Your ideas on child-rearing may not necessarily trump the presumption that the child needs both parents in their life.
4. Certain Actions Are Deal Breakers
If you or your ex have engaged in criminal activity in the presence of your child, that will gravely endanger any claim for custody. This includes a failure to pay support for the child.
If you have disparaged your ex in front of the child, that behavior may be viewed as detrimental to the child’s mental health. If you have left the child alone for extended periods of time, or been verbally abusive, or have failed to support their scholastic and extracurricular endeavors, you may risk gaining full custody.
Some behavior may not prohibit you from visiting your child, but it could require supervised visitation. Sometimes a grandparent or a social worker will need to be present until the court is satisfied that the child will be well cared for in your presence.
5. You Need Experienced Representation
A child custody fight may be the most important battle you will ever wage. Your life and that of your child hangs in the balance. The decision will impact your family’s future in irreversible ways.
You need experienced help if you are facing such a challenge. You need an attorney with a track record in negotiating and winning fair and just child custody agreements for his clients.
If you need to testify in court about your parenting, a good family lawyer will prepare you on how to speak honestly and without jeopardizing your position. If you need to find experts to examine your child or give testimony about your parenting skills, a good lawyer can help.
Your lawyer will advise on whether it might be worth it to try to find a compromise with your ex or to take them to court.
A Child Custody Court Case: Deciding Your Family’s Future
If you are pursuing a child custody court case, you need a strong advocate in your corner. The emotional impact of this challenge will be hard on you and your kids, so you need someone who can fight your battle effectively.
For more tips on finding the best way forward for your family, no matter what challenges you face, keep checking back on our blog.