What you can expect in a child custody hearing

By Goodwin Como, P.C.

In the event that you and your partner split up, the matter of child custody becomes a focal point for your new arrangement. These can be tense, emotional times, as there is a great deal at stake, and it’s not unusual for both parents to have goals and plans that are at odds with one another.

Should you and your ex disagree on custody to the point that it escalates to court proceedings, it’s important that you be prepared. By having an awareness of what you’re walking into, you can make for a better presentation of your own case for custody.

Small settings and quick decisions

Typically, family courtroom settings are small, and there aren’t many people in the room. Because judges and mediators tend to hear several cases in one day, it’s possible that your hearing will be brief. Once both parents have made their case in defense of a custody agreement, a judge will make a decision regarding who will be the custodial parent, and they’ll also rule on a visitation schedule.

What will a judge consider?

Before arriving at a ruling, a judge is likely to hear testimony from witnesses, which could include teachers, social workers or other unbiased figures in your child’s life. Both parents can also take the stand, and if the child is of an appropriate age, they’re also able to testify. The judge will weigh these individuals’ experiences with the child and the parents, as well as their recommendations for who would be a better fit for primary physical custody.

In the state of Pennsylvania, child custody courts make decisions that are in the best interests of the child, and the child’s safety is considered paramount. Some factors a judge will keep in mind before making a custody decision include:

  • Which parent will be more adept at tending to the child’s daily educational, emotional, developmental, and physical needs?
  • Which parent will provide the child with the most stable, loving, and nurturing relationship?
  • Which parent will be more receptive to allowing visitation and frequent contact with the child to the other parent?

Prepare yourself ahead of time

In order to give yourself the best chance at a favorable outcome in family court, it’s smart to prepare ahead of time. Make sure that you’re dressed appropriately and your arguments are in good standing. Have your answers prepared for elementary questions about your ability to care for the child, and bring along witnesses who can testify to your fitness as a parent. It’s also prudent to seek out legal counsel. An experienced family law attorney may be able to give you added guidance as you seek a fair ruling in family court.