Even when you know you are working toward a better and more stable future for you and your children, divorce proceedings are still a stressful time for everyone involved. For the majority of divorcing parents, the most worrying portion of the ordeal are the child custody proceedings. This is new and perhaps even frightening territory for many individuals who have never been in a court setting. You may find it helpful and reassuring to go into the custody proceedings as prepared as possible, knowing what you may encounter.
What to expect
Every situation is different, of course, but the main aspects of most child custody proceedings include:
- A small setting
- A limited time frame
- Multiple testimonies
- The judge's decision
When you hear the word "court," it may conjure up images of vast, intimidating courtrooms like those shown on television. In reality, though, a judge will oversee family matters in a much smaller, more intimate courtroom with very few people in attendance.
A limited time frame
Those involved in your child custody case hear any number of cases every day, so the judges, meditators and other professionals will want to move the proceedings along as quickly as possible. This means that the hearing itself likely won't take very long at all. You will want to work with your attorney ahead of time to prepare as thoroughly as possible since you will have a limited amount of time in which to present your case and make the best impression you can.
During the proceedings, the judge will hear testimony not just from you, your spouse and your children, but also from witnesses such as school officials. This will help the judge make an informed decision about your children's needs and, when applicable, whether you or your spouse will serve as primary custodial parent.
The judge's decision
After the judge has listened to testimonies from both sides presenting their defense for a particular custody arrangement, he or she will present the final determination. The judge will make the decision based on what he or she feels are your child's best interests. The judge's decision will determine which parent will be the primary custodial parent and various aspects of the visitation schedule.
How to prepare
If you would like more specifics about what to expect during your child custody proceedings, a Florida family law attorney will be able to offer guidance. A lawyer can help a divorcing parent prepare ahead of time, as adequate preparation can be key in any situation. Whether you and your ex-spouse hope to have a peaceful and cooperative parenting agreement, or whether you need to fight for the best interests of your child, and experienced lawyer can prove invaluable in securing the best outcome.