Custody battles can be one of the hardest, most important fights you’ll have in your life. If you’ve exhausted all possibilities of an amicable agreement for custody with your spouse or ex partner and are headed to court, prepare yourself. Attain facts about the process of child custody and what you can expect. Get plenty of rest, eat well, and be relentless preparing for your case. Your future with your children is at stake; if you’re prepared and knowledgeable the chances of a positive outcome are better.
Court can be an intimidating, stressful, even scary place. If you know what to expect (to a certain degree) it can relieve much of the strain, leaving you with energy to focus on your case.
In a contested custody case, you can expect the following:
- Witnesses: Child custody evaluators, psychologists, doctors, your husband, other witnesses, and the judge will microscopically examine your personal life and parenting skills. Be calm and collected. Your lawyer should tell you in more detail what to expect as it pertains to your case.
- Children’s Lawyer. The court may appoint a lawyer or guardian ad item whose job is to represent the best interests of your children.
- A Family court evaluator or mediator will evaluate your case and help the judge make custody and visitation decisions.
In preparing for your child custody case there are several things you can do. Look at the list below and follow any tips that may be relevant to your case. Many of these suggestions may seem time consuming and unnecessary. In the matter of contested child custody cases the last thing you want to do is go into the battle unprepared. Taking the time now can save you pain, headaches, and money down the road. If you want to win custody of your children it’s vital that you dedicate yourself to this cause until it’s settled.
In a contested custody case, you can do many things to prepare:
- Evaluate your parenting. Take a look at your parenting skills from the eyes of your ex. What has he criticized you about in the past? Do you have some bad habits in parenting? How could you be a better parent? Don’t beat yourself up; no parent is perfect, just take an honest look at your own parenting skills. You can be sure your ex and his lawyer will bring up anything negative that you’ve done in the past. Be prepared to defend your actions, explain how you’ve changed (if applicable), and point out the positive parts of your parenting skills.
- Take inventory of your behavior. You may be a great parent and not feel like each and every action you’ve taken, especially outside of parenting, should be judged; but it probably will be. Spending the time to look at anything you’ve done that may be inappropriate or subject to negative judgment is essential. Going in knowing what to expect and having a plan to appropriately deal with each point is vital to success in your case.It’s also essential that any less than desirable behavior or activity that you are continuing to engage in cease immediately. Contested child custody cases can be brutal, with the other party bringing out anything and everything in attempts to win. Don’t give them ammunition.
- Get Honest. When you take a parenting and behavior inventory, be honest. We’ve all made mistakes and wish we could change a choice or two. Pretending it didn’t happen will only lead to challenges in getting what you want and what you think is best for your children should it arise in court.Once you’re clear on what your ex may use against you, be completely honest about all of this with your lawyer. Don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed about any of it to the point of keeping it secret. Chances are it will come out if you’re in a heated custody battle; your lawyer must know what to expect ahead of time in order to defend your actions and to win your custody case. This information is normally strictly confidential and your lawyer should only use it to help you win your case.
- Gather Evidence. Bring together concrete evidence in the form of people, experts, documents, police reports, school records, phone records, doctors’ records, child protective services records, bank records, anything that will support allegations you make against your former spouse, or defend any allegations your ex spouse makes against you.Keep this evidence organized and concise. Have a list of people who will testify for you with contact information on hand.
- Professionals. If you don’t already have a lawyer you should get one who specializes in family law and has extensive experience in contested custody cases. If you can’t afford a lawyer contact legal aid or find a lawyer who will do pro bono work. (See Finding Free Legal Advice). If you already have a lawyer who doesn’t specialize in contested child custody, hire one who does to serve as co-counsel.See if you and your ex can hire a neutral, independent evaluator together to evaluate the situation and make recommendations to the court. Ask your lawyer to recommend good evaluators.
- Children front and center. During a contested custody battle it can get heated. Keep your focus on your children and what’s best for them. Don’t become entangled in revenge and anger.If you and your spouse focus on what’s in the best interest of your children, much of the accusations, anger, and excess stress should disappear. In the end what’s best for the children will be accomplished.
- Stay calm, keep focused. A contested custody battle can bring about many emotions; anger, resentment, frustrations, hurt, disappointment, regret, and more. Keeping a calm heart and mind; staying focused on the facts – as well as being honest about what’s in the best interest of your children is vital to your success in court. Showing the judge a calm, in control, mature parent despite the stress of the situation is key in winning your case. Lose your cool and you risk losing your case.
Contested child custody cases are never easy. Going into the battle prepared, honest, and focused can make the difference between losing and winning.
This article is not legal advice. You should consult an attorney if you have legal questions that relate to your specific divorce. The Modern Woman’s Divorce Guide has no relationship with the organizations; agencies or programs listed above and does not endorse their services. We provide these links for your information only.