When you can't reach an out-of-court settlement related to your child custody disagreement, you'll need to have a child custody hearing in court, and a judge will decide the matter. The experience of going into a child custody hearing can be nerve-wracking because the amount of time you spend with your children could be on the line.
Here are four pieces of advice that will help you get through your child custody hearing:
Get familiar with the law: You need to understand how New Jersey family courts decide child custody matters. Make sure you study the unique statutes and prior case law that apply to your situation so you can better present your case in court.
Learn about the better-parent standard: If your child custody hearing involves a demand for sole custody, you need to understand how courts make decisions related to sole custody. The "better-parent standard" is what courts use to determine if one parent is a drastically better parent compared to the other. Getting familiar with this standard will help you address issues related to sole custody during your hearing.
Get organized with your documentation: You will need to bring different types of documents and personal records to court with you on the trial day. An experienced family law attorney can help you organize these documents such as records of child support payments, visitation schedules, parenting journals, phone logs and more.
Adhere to "court-room" etiquette: There are certain standards of appropriate court-room behavior that -- when you adhere to them -- will help you do better in court. For example, emotional outbursts and statements of an accusatory nature are generally looked down upon and could cost you your case. Discuss with your family law attorney about proper attire and what will be expected of you at trial.
The better prepared you are for your child custody trial, the less stressed you'll be on the day of your hearing. You'll also have a higher chance of achieving the results you want if you complete the advanced preparation required to present yourself -- and your case -- in the best possible light.