When parents are not able to agree on a parenting plan, the Judge must determine which custody arrangement is most appropriate based upon the best interests of the child standard.
This legal standard, though seemingly straightforward, is usually the most complicated and emotionally-charged part of divorce. In applying this standard, Judges will consider who has primarily taken care of the children during the marriage, whose schedule allows the children to spend more time with a parent instead of in daycare, and who can best provide for the physical, educational, mental, and emotional needs of the children. What makes child custody cases so difficult is that this standard can often force parents to defend themselves and their parenting abilities.
At the start of any custody case, each parent stands on equal footing. They both have an initial presumption of joint custody and the Judge does not know anything about either parent or their parenting history. However, this equal standing does not last for long. From your first appearance before the Judge for a temporary order hearing to the end of your closing statement at trial, every court appearance you make is an opportunity to help the Judge understand why your proposed parenting plan is in the children’s best interests.
Judges can only make their final custody ruling based on the evidence each parent has presented. To protect your parental rights, you must use every stage of the custody case to obtain necessary evidence through targeted discovery and paint the Judge a clear picture through precisely-drafted filings and well-articulated oral arguments.
If you are involved in a child custody dispute, contact child custody attorney Marc P. Feldman today for a free initial consultation. I will help you develop a comprehensive legal strategy from the beginning and take the necessary procedural steps to ensure you are able to decide how your children should be raised and cared for.