Divorce is something that no one wants to go through, even though it’s sometimes necessary. While the separation of two adults can usually be handled without too much stress, when children are involved it can get complicated. Whatever the circumstances may be, if you are seeking child custody, you want to know exactly what you need to do to win.
The Necessary Steps
Custody battles can be complicated and messy, but first and foremost we need to remember to keep the needs of the children foremost in our minds. Every situation is unique and different, but below are some steps you can take to ensure the best outcome possible.
- Family Law Your first step should be contacting a lawyer who specializes in family law. While a lawyer isn’t necessary, and you can go through these steps without one, it is highly recommended. Custody laws can vary and be difficult to navigate on your own. Having someone who can counsel you on family law will help your chances immensely. Many child custody lawyers will offer free consultations, which means you can meet with a couple to see which one is best for you. These consultations can also help get the wheels in motion for the next step.
- Read Up. Becoming familiar with custody laws in your area can help you understand the process better. Even though you’ll be working with a lawyer, it’s always a good idea to get a solid understanding of the law. The benefit of working with a lawyer on this step is that they can explain things in detail. When reading through family law, take notes on things that need clarification, and don’t hesitate to ask when meeting with your lawyer.
- Paperwork States will often have custody agreement paperwork online. Printing out the necessary forms and filling them out at home, or with your lawyer, can help speed up the process. If anything needs to be notarized, there are many banks that offer is service without charge; however, that step varies between states.
- Filing. You local courthouse will be able to officially file all of your completed paperwork. If you are working with a family law lawyer they will often times do this step for you. Once all the paperwork is complete and filed, it’s time to prepare for the actual hearing.
- Court Date Child custody hearings aren’t usually hours long, typically they last around twenty minutes. Sometimes more than one hearing is needed; however, that is case dependent. Because you won’t have a lot of time to put forth your points, it’s a good idea to write out what you want to say, and any issues you wish to share. Beforehand you can have your lawyer help narrow down the most important topics so that you can have the most impact with your time.
- The Decision Don’t panic if the judge doesn’t hand down a decision immediately. Sometimes it can take a couple days, or multiple appearances before the process is complete. This is completely normal, and no cause for worry. The judge has the huge responsibility of trying to decide what is best for the children, and that decision is not one to be taken lightly. Trust that you and your lawyer have done everything possible to achieve the best outcome.
- Appealing If the court has found reason to award custody to the other party, there are other steps you can take. You can always appeal the decision in the future, and in the meantime, ask the judge what they recommend you do to improve your chances. The judge is there to help you, and they can tell you why they ruled against you; sometimes it’s due to the other party having greater income, or better housing arrangements. Take this time to work towards these goals, and speak with your lawyer about revisiting the case in the near future after the recommendations have been met.