Even though a child custody hearing usually lasts only about 20-30 minutes, it can be the most important half-hour of your life as a parent. Here are some common issues relating to custody hearings.
Attending The Custody Hearing
Unfortunately, the courts will sometimes schedule a hearing at a time that’s inconvenient for you. You should not ignore the notifications of a hearing.
Failing to appear in court could result in serious consequences, including having less time with your children. The courts are obliged to act in the best interest of your children. Shirking a court date could signal to a judge that you’re not a responsible guardian and lead them to issue an order that is not in your favor.
In some cases, a court may be willing to reschedule the hearing or, in some rare instances, change the venue so that both parents can attend. Another option is for a parent to attend the hearing via a phone call or video.
It might also be advisable for someone who receives notice of a child custody hearing to get in touch with a family law attorney for legal advice. The lawyer could review the client’s case and make recommendations regarding ongoing child custody and support issues. Legal counsel may also be able to work with the other parent’s attorney and the court to arrange for appropriate representation at hearing dates.
Factors Considered During A Child Custody Hearing
In Texas, the state courts generally prefer to award joint custody to both parents. One parent will have primary physical custody of the child while the other parent has visitation rights.
Some of the factors that a judge will consider include:
- Best interests of the child
- Parent’s lifestyle, physical health, and mental health
- Parent’s ability to provide a good environment for the children
- Relationship between the parents and child
Some questions you can expect from a judge during a child custody hearing are likely to relate to:
- Financial status
- The custody arrangement that you are proposing and why it is in the child’s best interest
- Current custody arrangements
- Communication with the other parent
- Plans to move away with the child
- Domestic violence and substance abuse
- Aspects of personal life that can affect the child’s home life
Experienced attorneys can help you to structure your answers well so you can express yourself clearly and support your answers with facts. This will be important in cases when both parents are not in agreement about child custody arrangements. You can also find out about what judges will look out for in a hearing.
Here are some specific details on common custody hearing issues that you need to know.
You may need to prepare information about your income and financial obligations such as debt to provide to the court. The judge will use this to determine if you have the financial ability to provide for your child’s needs.
If you are not the custodial parent, you will also have to pay child support. The judge will use your financial information to determine the amount of child support you are able to pay.
Type Of Custody Arrangement
The family law court typically prefers a joint custody arrangement. It is usually in the best interests of the child to maintain a relationship with both parents. However, if you are fighting for sole custody, you will need to provide evidence on why that is best for the child. You may want to work with a divorce lawyer to prepare your case.
You may also be asked questions about the appropriate visitation schedule that you think is best for the child. Visitation is one of the most common issues in child custody cases.
Communication With the Other Parent
The judge will take the quality and frequency of your communication with the other parent into account. If the state courts order joint custody, you will need to communicate regularly with one another about decisions and issues pertaining to your children and find common ground.
Current Custody Arrangements
If you already have a custody arrangement with your ex after having lived apart for a while, the judge may ask about it to understand what’s working and what’s not working at the moment.
The judge typically may not want to interfere with something that’s working and that both parents are in agreement on. They may order a similar arrangement in the final court order.
During the trial, the judge will often also gather testimony from child psychologists, Child Protective Services, family members, and other witnesses to get more information on the common custody hearing issues discussed. The wishes of your child may also be considered if they are at least 12 years old.
Tips For A Child Custody Trial
Do not insult the other parent even if it is a bitter divorce. This will leave a bad impression during the trial which can affect your case. Work with your legal attorney to learn the best way to present your case in a factual and objective manner, although you’re pointing out why the other parent is not the best person to take care of your child.
Dress professionally for the courtroom and your divorce lawyer can advise you on what would be considered appropriate attire to present a positive image. The judge will feel confident that you can be a good influence on your child and see your case more favorably.
Observe etiquette. Any inappropriate behavior can cause the judge to lose confidence in you even if your divorce lawyer has built up a strong case.
Final Custody Order
At the end of the trial, the judge will make the decision on the custodial parent. The other parent will receive visitation rights. Attorneys and parents will need to come to an agreement for a visitation schedule that is fair to both parties. The judge will issue a final court order with their decision.
You have the right to appeal the legal decision if you do not agree with any of the terms. However, appealing often does not mean you get a new judge to review your case. You may not be able to submit new information. Many times, appeals courts only review the decisions made in cases to determine if the judge made any legal errors.
The child custody hearing is important when you’re fighting for legal custody of the child or trying to get a fair visitation schedule that allows you sufficient parenting time with your child.
Let the award-winning Family Law experts at Sean Lynch law firm help you prepare your legal case. We can give you more information on common custody hearing issues.
Contact us today for a no-cost case review.