Preparing for a Child Custody Hearing in New Jersey
The trial for the custody of your children may be one of the most important processes of your life, impacting the way your family functions forever. Working with your attorney in preparing for a child custody hearing in New Jersey could make the difference in the outcome for your case. A custody attorney must prepare you for testimony, prepare evidential exhibits, and submit paperwork ahead of trial.
It is important to go over things you have written, clearly understand your goals, and learn about the procedure. Also having a familiarity with the arguments the other side will likely make could ensure that there are no surprises in court, meaning that you could be prepared for the outcome ahead of time.
Materials to Prepare for Family Court
They are not bringing anything to court that is independent of what has already been prepared and submitted by the attorney. All exhibits and information should be given to the court and must be made available to the other party and their attorney via the discovery process. Getting these documents ready for court is part of preparing for a child custody hearing in New Jersey and a party should not bring anything to court unless their attorney advises them to.
Witnesses in Custody Hearings
If there are custody evaluators or mental health professionals who can help the case, they may be called expert witnesses and the attorney would put them on the stand and question them to establish what is in the child’s best interest to the judge. Sometimes, there are also fact witnesses who have observed the parent with the child such as a teacher or relative. These are considered lay witnesses as opposed to potential expert witnesses such as mental health professionals.
Factors Judges Consider When Making Custody Decisions
In custody trials, judges will consider many factors when determining the best interests of the child. Part of preparing for child custody hearings for an attorney is getting ready to question witnesses in order to present the evidence. Sometimes, if the judge has additional questions or needs clarification, they may ask questions themselves. There are many other factors that will impact the outcome of this trial.
Financial status does not generally have a large effect on custody hearings unless one party cannot provide for the child. If one party is better able to provide not only psychologically but also financially for the child to give them a better life, that certainly could have an impact. Gathering financial paperwork to prove the ability to provide for a child as a primary custodian is yet another way to prepare for a New Jersey custody hearing.
The Relationship Between Parents
The relationship between both parents will greatly affect the custody determination, especially in situations where the parties are seeking a 50-50 arrangement. This type of shared custody requires parents to communicate effectively to make that situation work. If the two parties are not amicable, it may complicate the situation and create difficulties for the child.
The Impact of Existing Arrangements for Custody
If there is a formal custody arrangement that the parties have been using, it could serve as a baseline and if there is an informal arrangement, the court may take that into account as to what the status quo was. Informal arrangements are not as strong as having a previous order, but may still serve to establish what has worked for the parties and which circumstances may be best for the child.
The Length of Child Custody Hearings in New Jersey
There is no standard length of time required for a New Jersey child custody hearing. These trials could last 25-days over the course of nine months on separate days. The trial could also last only a day depending on the issues of the case.
It depends on the magnitude of issues in the case, the number of witnesses or testimony, the skill of the attorneys and the availability of the court to schedule the time for the hearing. Most times, the court will not give hearings on consecutive days, rather, expanding it over time. It also depends on which section in New Jersey and the venue and caseload of the particular judge, but in terms of the actual length of court time itself, a custody trial with two witnesses, which are just the parties, would be done much quicker than a custody trial with 10 witnesses.
Handling a Custody Case Can Be Difficult
It can be very difficult for you to handle a custody trial as it is emotional, costly, and time-consuming. Preparing for a child custody hearing in New Jersey requires cooperation between the attorney, parent, and court. The more the attorney and spouse can work together, the more thoroughly they could prepare, quicker. An attorney could help prepare parents for court by standing by your side from the beginning and building a strategy in court to accomplish your goals. If you are preparing for a child custody hearing, call a family lawyer today to devise a strategy and collect all the necessary documents.