How Can I Prepare for a Child Custody Trial?
If you have separated from your partner or are seeking a divorce from your spouse that you share children with, you may be required to hold a child custody trial if you cannot reach an agreement with your co-parent for a custody arrangement. Here is what you need to know about preparing for a child custody trial.
Consider What Your Co-Parent’s Arguments Will Be
First, you should take the time to think about what arguments your co-parent will make to support their preferred custody arrangement. If they are seeking primary physical custody or sole legal and/or physical custody, what circumstances about your relationship with your co-parent and with your children or what personal circumstances of yours will your co-parent bring to the court’s attention? In addition, what personal circumstances of your co-parent’s life will they try to highlight in support of their case?
You should also collaborate with your family law attorney to collect any relevant evidence for your case. You will need evidence to not only support your arguments but also to potentially counter the arguments that your co-parent will raise at trial. Because there are rules about how evidence can be collected and used in family law matters, having an attorney representing you will ensure that your case follows these rules.
Cooperate with the Custody Evaluator or Guardian ad Litem
In some cases, the family court will appoint a custody evaluator to provide a neutral third-party opinion for the court’s consideration. Or the court may appoint a guardian ad litem to advocate for your child’s best interests or appoint an attorney to advocate for your child’s expressed preferences. If the court appoints one or more of these professionals and orders you to cooperate, such as allowing the custody evaluator to observe your relationship with your child or your home environment, it is in your best interests to do so.
Hire Experts to Bolster Your Case
If the court appoints third-party experts to provide opinions to the court, it may also be in your interests to hire your own experts, especially if your co-parent does so. Experts that you may hire for your case include psychological experts, who can provide testimony concerning your psychological fitness to parent, your co-parent’s fitness, or the quality of your relationship with your child. You might also retain educational or medical experts if providing for your child’s needs will be an issue in the case.
Prepare for the Possibility of the Court Interviewing Your Child
Finally, while children are rarely called to testify during the child custody trial itself due to the pressures it can put on them, courts may conduct a private interview with your child in the judge’s chambers out of the presence of you, your co-parent, and your attorneys so that your child can feel comfortable speaking freely. If the judge conducts an interview, they will want to evaluate whether your child is mature enough to express an intelligent, reasoned preference for a custody arrangement and if so what that preference is. Importantly, you should not try to coach your child on what to say in such an interview, as that will cause you to look bad before the court.
Contact a Cherry Hill Family Law Attorney for a Consultation About Child Custody in New Jersey Today
If you are thinking about filing for divorce, or if you have already started the divorce process and are dealing with another matter such as child custody, child support, or division of assets, you need to speak with a qualified attorney. Family law attorney, Lois Garber Schwartz, Esq. represents clients throughout the state, including Cherry Hill, Mt. Laurel, Haddonfield, and Pennsauken. She understands how challenging this time can be for you, which is why she will fight hard to protect your interests, and the interests of your loved ones, throughout the legal process. Call her at (856) 482-8799 or fill out our confidential contact form to schedule a consultation. She has an office conveniently located at 1040 Kings Hwy. N., Suite 202, Cherry Hill, NJ 08034.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.