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How to prepare for a child custody hearing

When New York parents cannot agree on a custody arrangement and visitation schedule, the matter often has to be resolved in court. While this can happen when the parents are determined to use the children as pawns in a bid to hurt one another, it can also arise when one parent sincerely believes that the kids are better off with them. 

If this is the case with your situation, then preparation for the child custody hearing is essential. Custody disputes are rarely straightforward legally, and you cannot expect a favorable decision when you appear before a judge without preparing first. Here are some tips for making the best possible impression in court. 

Collect all necessary documents 

Getting ready for the hearing means organizing all the documents needed to support your position. Your New York family law attorney will advise on what you will need, but required documents usually include: 

  • Legal paperwork related to the divorce 
  • Financial documents 
  • Your work schedule 
  • Proposed visitation schedules 
  • Your children’s medical records 

Ask people to be witnesses 

You can ask family members, friends, child welfare professionals, and respected members of the community to speak on your behalf at the hearing. Invite people who have seen your parenting skills first-hand and can say truthfully that you love and are devoted to your children. 

Dress for the occasion 

Parents who do not put their best foot forward in court can risk losing custody. An important part of courtroom etiquette is dressing properly. You don’t have to wear a business suit (unless you own one) but ripped, stained clothing and torn jeans convey an attitude of carelessness and neglect. Dressed comfortably, but stay on the conservative side. 

Don’t show your anger or bitterness 

If your disagreement has made it to court, then you are probably feeling bitter and angry towards your former spouse. Even if you want to yell at them or object to what they say in court, remain composed. You don’t want the judge to see you as emotionally unstable and therefore not a fit parent for primary custody. 

Prepare your testimony 

When you testify, continue the positive impression inspired by your attire. Be calm, respectful, and give complete answers, even when your former spouse’s attorney is the one asking the questions. If he or she steps out of line, then let the court handle it while you remain on the higher ground. 

Child custody hearing can be alarming prospects, but with the right preparation and guidance from a New York family law attorney, you can show that you are a loving and responsible parent and the ideal custodian for your children. Even if the decision is not completely in your favor (e.g., you sought full custody, but the judge decided on a 50-50 arrangement), your efforts can never be wasted. Jayson Lutzky is a Bronx, NY family court lawyer with over 35 years of legal experience. He works with each client to find the best solution to their custody concerns and offers free in-person consultations. Call 718-329-9500 to set up a meeting. Visit MyNewYorkCityLawyer.com to learn more.

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