How to Prepare for Your Child Custody Case

Child custody attorneys working at divorce law firms in Yorktown, Poquoson and other locations in Virginia must counsel their clients about how to prepare for a child custody case. Too many parents believe that the battle over custody can be won by simply walking into court and telling their story to a judge. It does not work that way.

Decisions made by judges to resolve custody disputes must be based upon evidence allowing a judge to determine the type of custody arrangement consistent with the best interests of the child.

Parents who want a judge to award them custody of their children need to work with their child custody lawyers to gather evidence and decide upon a strategy for presenting it in the most persuasive way. It takes preparation by both the child custody lawyer and the parent to achieve a favorable result. Custody cases differ in the issues raised and the strategies developed by the attorneys, but there are a few things that parents can do to increase their chances of success.

Learn About the Virginia Child Custody Laws

When it comes to deciding upon child custody, the wishes of the parents take second place to the best interests of their child. Virginia child custody laws suggest factors for judges to take into consideration to determine the custody arrange that meets a child’s best interests, including:

  • Physical and mental condition and age of the child with consideration given to the developmental needs of the child.
  • Physical and mental condition and age of each parent.
  • Relationship as it currently exists between the child and each parent.
  • Needs of a child with due consideration given to a child’s relationship with friends, siblings and other relatives.
  • Role played by each parent in raising the child.
  • Ability demonstrated parents to resolve disputes and disagreements pertaining to their child.
  • Preferences of the child regarding custody arrangements.
  • History, if any, of sexual or family abuse.

The law encourages judges to take into consideration evidence pertaining to other factors they believe be relevant and helpful in reaching a decision consistent with the best interests of the child.

It also helps for parents to understand the child custody options judges have in Circuit Courts or Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Courts in Williamsburg, Newport News and other locations throughout the Hampton Roads region. Judges may award physical custody or legal custody.

Learn About Virginia’s Child Custody Laws (cont.)

Legal custody pertains to the authority of a parent to make decisions pertaining to a child. Physical custody refers to the place a child lives for the majority of the time. An order granting joint legal custody means that both parents share equally in the decision-making process regarding medical care, education, religion and other key issues arising when raising a child.

Joint physical custody divides the child’s place of abode between the parents. Courts also have the option of granting sole custody to only one parent with visitation to the noncustodial parent.

Understanding the factors judges take into consideration in deciding upon the custody options available under Virginia custody laws may help parents prepare for a child custody case. For example, child custody attorneys may encourage their clients to avoid the following activities in anticipation of a hearing on custody:

  • Arguing with the other parent about visitation and other issues related to the child.
  • Failing to exercise parental rights, including cancelling schedule visits with the child or refusing to participate in a child’s school-related activities.
  • Discussing the divorce or child custody case with the child.
  • Making derogatory statements about the other parent to or in the presence of the child.

Parents need to focus on maintaining their supportive and nurturing relationship with their child in the weeks and days leading up to the hearing on child custody.

Going to Court Can Be Intimidating, So Document Everything in Advance

Judges rely upon the evidence presented by the child custody attorneys to prove fact favorable to their respective clients. Parents can help their attorneys having documents to support key portions of their testimony, including:

  • Keeping a diary: A diary with entries showing the date, time and interaction between the parents and between each parent and the child may help during a hearing or when meeting with an attorney to prepare for it. The diary may help to jog a person’s memory about events, or it may be useful as a contemporaneous record of a particular event.
  • Visitation calendar: Recording each visit with a child by a parent may be useful to help a person recall the number of visits over a specific period of time. Evidence of this type can be used to show a parent participates in a child’s life, or it could be used to show how a parent has not taken advantage of opportunities to visit.
  • Emails and text messages: Gathering and preserving copies of emails and text messages may be useful to prove how a parent’s involvement in the life of the child. They may also be useful to prove threats or abusive conduct by one of the parents.

It is important for parents to keep in mind that documents they prepare may not end up being used at a hearing. Parents should trust in the judgment of their attorneys and be guided by what they decide to use and how to use it during the hearing.

Dress and Act Like the Better Parent

Although decisions in child custody cases must be consistent with the evidence, the demeanor of witnesses and how they dress for court may influence a judge. Parents should follow the instructions of their attorneys about appropriate clothing to wear to court and should refrain from any behavior, including arguing with the other parent, that may poorly reflect upon them.

The Choice of Attorney May Affect the Outcome of a Case

Proper preparation in anticipation of a child custody case and the selection of an experienced and knowledgeable attorney can affect the outcome. The Yorktown – Newport News attorneys at the  Denbigh Law Center has been the divorce law firm serving the family law needs of people in the Hampton Roads region since 1982. Contact them today to schedule a consultation by calling 757-877-2244.