A child custody hearing is often one of the most daunting parts of the divorce process and can be difficult to even begin to think about. However, this hearing is integral to the relationship you will have with your child going forward, and you should try your best to prepare yourself mentally for the day. Here’s a glance at what to expect in a child custody hearing so that fast or big decisions don’t take you by surprise.
Your Trial Is Not a Show
Most Americans experience courtroom settings through television legal dramas, which portray courtrooms as almost theatrical venues unto themselves, or through “trial of the century” real-life spectacles. Family court is typically a much more low-profile setting than what you see of courts on TV, whether real or fictitious. Don’t expect many people in the courtroom with you, and don’t expect a large or majestic courtroom. The emphasis in family court is on dialogue and efficiency. Nonetheless, you should look your best for the occasion and mustn’t take the hearing lightly.
Determination of Child Support
If the court does not award full custody, you will typically need to pay child support. In some rare instances, the court will not order child support payments at all, and in others, both parents may have to put money into a dedicated account for child support. However the custody arrangement may work out, you should expect the matter of money regarding joint custody to come up during the hearing.
During the hearing, it’s likely that the court will begin to lay out a blueprint for the non-custodial parent to receive time with their child. Various factors will come into play in determining the length and frequency of these visits, such as the parent’s mental health, financial status, employment, and availability. The court will also often take the child’s needs, wishes, and safety into account.
Don’t Expect a Long Trial
The docket of the average family court is packed. This means that as aforementioned, judges and mediators in family law emphasize swiftness and efficiency in their proceedings to complete as many cases in a day as possible. One thing to expect in a child custody hearing that you may not have expected before is that this could be a real in-and-out affair. This is to the liking of not only the court but often to both parties of the hearing. However, if you feel that the court has glossed over too much and not given you the opportunity to sufficiently make your case, you may feel it’s best to appeal your case to a higher court.