In an ideal world, you would be able to easily agree to parenting time and a parenting plan without going to court. Unfortunately, it isn’t always as simple as that.
Unfortunately, not every separating couple can agree on parenting arrangements. Sometimes, compulsory family dispute resolution isn’t enough to get the job done. In situations like this, you have to apply to the court to settle arrangements for children. The risk is that one or both of you may be disappointed by the child custody or child support decision that the family law courts render. It doesn’t matter what disagreements or issues you have with your ex, the family law act ensures custody agreements should always revolve around the best interests of the child. That’s what your hearing will focus on. That being said, I would love to provide you with some tips to prepare for the hearing as someone who has struggled through family dispute resolution at a family relationship centre and failed to achieve a successful family mediation.
7 Tips to Prepare
- Know the Law
It’s always wise to familiarise yourself with the relevant laws revolving around custody and parental responsibility. Unless the court says otherwise due to family violence or other safety issues, you will share parental responsibility with the other parent. Having a good idea of the relevant laws will better prepare you to talk to your lawyer about your hearing.
- The Better Parent
This is generally the standard which is used if one parent is pursuing sole custody. The family law court would rarely award sole custody unless there is family violence or addiction issues. Even if the goal is joint custody arrangements, you should discuss with your lawyer how to best highlight that you’re the better parent.
- The Documentation
Your lawyer should tell you exactly what type of documentation you will need for your day in court. You may be required to submit personal records, as well as the current custody schedule along with proof of child support payments. If there is abuse present, you will want to document as much of that as possible and your lawyer will likely ask that you bring all of it along.
- Courtroom Etiquette
You should know what is expected of you once you arrive in court. Your lawyer may do some role-play to prepare you for it, but it’s important that you avoid accusatory statements or emotional outbursts. While you’re only human, you can’t let anything get under your skin. This is about your child/ren.
You need to know what to expect during your court hearing. While hearings in family court tend to be less combative, you should be prepared to deal with every step of the hearing process. There is no jury involved, it’s a judge who will hear both sides and make a decision regarding parenting orders.
- Appropriate Dress
If you want to make a positive first impression, then you should dress appropriately for a court hearing. They are going to form an opinion on you before they know your (or your child/ren’s) name or know the details of your case. While that might sound unfair, it’s human nature. That doesn’t mean you have to go and buy designer labels. It simply means you should present yourself as a responsible adult and dress smartly. Ultimately, it’s about presenting yourself in the best light possible.
- The Children
In an ideal world, you would be able to easily agree to parenting time and a parenting plan without going to court. Unfortunately, it isn’t always as simple as that. When it comes time to go to court, find childcare for your children. They should not come to court. However, if yours have to in order to speak to a judicial office, speak with the court staff ahead of time for greater understanding. Perhaps someone can take them once that appointment is complete.