How to Prepare for a Custody Trial

(US family law procedure and generally) When a relationship ends, whether it is a marriage or two people living together, the emotional and financial toll it takes on the parties can be overwhelming. The impact of a break up is multiplied when the couple is embroiled in a dispute over custody of their children.

People fail to realize that a judge hearing a child custody case does not know either of the parties or the circumstances that brought them to court. A judge’s decision in a case is based only on the evidence presented by each side in the dispute; therefore, it is essential that you be prepared to provide your lawyer with the information, witnesses and documents she needs to prove that you are entitled to have custody of your children.

Do Not Involve the Children

If the children are living with you, do not bring them to court unless your attorney or the judge instructs you to do so. A child custody case is a dispute between the parents that affects the children. The children should not be made parties to the dispute.

Parents who speak negatively to their children about the other parent in an effort to win the children to their side are only hurting themselves. Judges hearing a custody case will usually speak to the children privately at some point in the proceedings. One reason for the interview is to determine if either of the parents has attempted influence the children.

Maintain a Diary

Your lawyer needs an accurate account of the facts and circumstances in the relationship both you and your partner had with the children. You should prepare a diary for your lawyer of current and prior incidents that have a bearing on the question of custody or the relationships you and your spouse have with the children.

Each diary entry should begin with the date, location and names of people who were present. After this preliminary information, there should be a brief, factual description of what occurred including statements that were made. Keep the description as accurate as possible and limit it to occurrences having to do with the issue of custody.

Witnesses

Witnesses who have information that bears upon your relationship with your child are more important than testimony from your high school classmate saying you were a wonderful person when she last saw you 15 years ago. The following are examples of useful witnesses in a custody case:

• Counselors who have treated you or your child
• Your child’s teachers
• Guidance counselors at your child’s school
• Friends and neighbors who have witnessed your interaction with your child
• Doctors and other health care workers

Documents and Other Evidence

Documents such as letters and photographs that are related to the issue of custody should be gathered and shown to your attorney. Keep in mind that not every piece of evidence can or should be used be used in court, so do not get upset if your attorney decides not to use something you believe the judge should see or hear. For instance, you may have a tape recording of a conversation you secretly recorded between your spouse and the children that your attorney refuses to use in court. Your attorney will probably advise you that such secret recordings are illegal in most states.

Listen to Your Lawyer

A family law attorney knows the custody laws in your state and the rules for the admissibility of evidence in child custody cases. Following your attorney’s instructions and advice is the best way to achieve a successful result.

Karen White knows how stressful custody trials can be. Seeking help from a Dallas family lawyer can bring good results to your divorce and custody trial cases.