Whether you are going through a dissolution, paternity, post-judgment, or restraining order action, litigating for custody of your child or children can be a stressful time. Among other things, the party that can keep their composure and provides evidentiary support for their arguments is generally the party who obtains what they want from the Court at the hearing. Whether you have a lawyer or are a pro per litigant the below five tips will serve you well when you go to Court for a child custody hearing.
1. Know What the Family Court Services (FCS) Report States.
Prior to any custody hearing, you, and the other party will have been to Family Court Services. Again, before any hearing, the FCS mediator will have prepared a report. which will have provided to all parties, and the Court. Every Judge knows that child custody is a complicated matter. but if you have no input for the California Court, and are merely blindly making requests, the Court can and will take notice that such matters are not as important to you as they could be.
2. Understand what the Family Code states regarding custody.
The Family Code governs child custody litigation as to any child custody matter. Generally, the Court will look in most cases to see what is in the best interest of your child, although standards vary depending on the type of action that is ongoing. Irrespective of whether you have a lawyer, it's a great idea to follow up on what the law says about California Child Custody & Parenting Time (Visitation).
3. Bring all relevant evidence to Court, or file it ahead of time. If you have an attorney or are representing yourself. you should follow the briefing schedule outlined in every case. and file documents ahead of time with the Court.
Items such as proof of phone conversations, visitation, or other custody matters that are personal notes are always relevant, and the Court will consider them.
4. Follow Proper Courtroom Etiquette
If you have a lawyer, this party will be speaking for you. However, in a child custody hearing, the Court will swear both parties in, meaning you can testify under penalty of perjury. It is common for any Family Court in such hearings to ask questions of the parties. Whether you have a lawyer or not, you must behave appropriately in Court, not interrupt, yell, or act otherwise disruptively. You should be prepared for the hearing as the Judge will be watching and assessing your demeanor.
5. Know what to expect at your hearing
Child Custody hearings are a vital part of the dissolution and paternity case process. These hearings can be intimidating, especially for those unfamiliar with the process in California. Your Child Custody hearing will be heard in front of a judge who will make an immediate decision and issue a child custody order, a violation of which can carry civil or criminal penalties. While many orders are “temporary”, a temporary order can, in fact, last many years without a change.