Hackensack Child Custody Hearings

If you and your child’s other parent can agree on a parenting plan that addresses who will have legal and physical custody over your child, you can submit that plan for Court approval without ever actually having to appear in Court. If you are unable to settle the matter out of Court, though, you will need to have a judge step in and decide the matter for you based on evidence both sides present during a formal hearing.

Hackensack child custody hearings are stressful proceedings with your children’s future at stake. It is always better to prepare effectively and make the most of the hearing itself than to try to appeal an unfavorable decision from the judge later on. Fortunately, you have help available from a seasoned child custody attorney who can work tirelessly to protect your rights as well as your child’s best interests from start to finish in the hearing process.

How to Prepare for a Child Custody Hearing

One very important thing to understand about the child custody hearing process in Hackensack is that it is rarely a process that concludes quickly. In fact, it is not uncommon for the preliminary stages of a child custody hearing to stretch over several months, during which the parents may be encouraged to go through multiple rounds of out-of-court negotiations. The Court may also order the parents to attend free third-party mediation provided by the Court. In fact, the Court will do all it can to try and get you to settle your case because it is the public policy of New Jersey that custody issues are better determined between parents than by the Court. Unfortunately, that is not always possible.

As the scheduled hearing date approaches, it will be vital to collect and preserve every piece of evidence that a lawyer could incorporate into a comprehensive case to present before the judge, including:

  • A copy of the preferred parenting plan that the other parent did not agree to
  • Input from qualified experts, such as child psychologists and guardian ad litems
  • Testimony from witnesses who know how the parent parents their children, like close family and community members
  • Photos and videos of the child and the places they would live while in each parent’s custody
  • Copies of the other party’s criminal record or police reports, if applicable
  • Anything else that may be relevant for the Court’s determination

A seasoned family law attorney can offer more specific guidance on what information may be important to a particular case during a confidential consultation. Crucially, not everything you may want to present at the hearing may be admissible in evidence. A skilled custody attorney will know the Rules of Evidence to ensure that you are presenting information admissible as evidence.

What to Expect During a Child Custody Hearing

The actual hearing for a child custody case in Hackensack will begin with each parent’s legal counsel making opening statements on their behalf, followed by the presentation of testimony and evidence intended to encourage the judge to rule in their favor. Each parent’s attorney will have the opportunity to cross-examine the other parent and their witnesses to attack their credibility and the weight of their evidence.

Once everyone has presented their cases, each parent’s attorney will make a closing argument. Then the judge will deliberate on what they have seen and heard in order to come to a final decision. Depending on the circumstances and complexity of the case, it may take several days or weeks for the judge to issue their decision; or they may issue it the same day as the hearing. The decision can be rendered in writing or orally. Either way, either party has 45 days after receiving the decision and Court’s Order to file an appeal, if they wish to do so. All in all, the hearing is actually a trial without a jury.

A Hackensack Attorney Can Help Throughout the Child Custody Hearing Process

Every custody case is unique. There will always be various and unique elements of your case that you will need to prepare for. This makes seeking help from a seasoned family law attorney sooner rather than later crucial when you are trying to negotiate a favorable custody agreement with your child’s other parent or about to participate in a child custody hearing.

If you have a Hackensack child custody hearing coming up, you should make contacting skilled legal counsel your top priority. Call today to schedule a consultation.

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