Going through a divorce is difficult enough on its own, but adding in the extra element of child custody makes a challenging process even more emotional. As a parent, you want what is best for your children but you also want to ensure that you get the maximum amount of time with them. Being informed about the process is the best way you can prepare for a contested custody case in Birmingham.
What follows is some advice about how to prepare yourself for the actual custody procedures as well as guidelines for interacting with relevant individuals over the course of the custody case. Hiring a talented family lawyer in Alabama is one of the most important things you can do to prepare for your case, as this will ease a lot of your fears and concerns and give you clear expectations about the next steps and the best recommendations for proceeding. A solid attorney can make a big difference in your case both in terms of the outcome and in terms of your own preparation.
Prepare Your Presentation as a Parent
Although this might seem like a strange process, it’s worthwhile one. You have to assume that the court knows next to nothing about you and how you parent, so you need to carefully consider this. There are several things you should keep track of so details are fresh when you go to court. Keep a journal that tracks:
- How much time, on average, you spend with the children
- How much time the other parent usually spends with the children
- Times that the other parent is gone (including out of town and work schedule)
- Negative comments, shouting, arguments, or other incidents that could impact the children
- What activities you participate in with the children or facilitate for them (church, sports, etc)
Going back over at least the lax six months to one year will be helpful when you consider these critical details. You also want to demonstrate to the court that you are well-prepared to care for your children. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that the court representatives will already know this about you. You can support your role in this area by showing that you:
- Have a safe location for the children to live
- Maintain a job
- Have considered schools and child care, if necessary
- Have considered community ties the children might have like friends, church, and activities
Know How Custody is Determined
Child custody arrangements are made under the guidelines of what’s considered the best interests of the child. This leaves a lot of room for interpretation by a judge, so you need to be prepared to demonstrate why you are ready and fully capable of taking care of the children and supporting their development effectively. This could even mean that you need to be prepared to discuss any serious parenting problems relating to the other spouse, like neglect, drug usage, or similar problems that could impact the child’s well-being. In many cases, judges prefer to interpret the best interests of the child as having some kind of relationship with both parents whenever this is possible. Although it’s not always in the best interests for this, you should be prepared for reasonable compromises that allow both parents to be actively involved.
Don’t Put Your Children in an Awkward Position
The older the child is, the more likely the court is to consider their own preferences. It can be extremely difficult for children to be put in this position, however. You should always try to support what the child wants and needs to the extent that you can and not encourage him or her to take sides. The court might even appoint a representative in the form of a guardian ad litem to speak directly to any children to determine whether the child’s requested location is on his or her best interest. As a general guideline, you want to strive to be professional in any interactions with guardians ad litem and other individuals linked to your case.
Child custody is not easy for anyone, but one of the most proactive steps you can take is hiring an experienced Birmingham family law attorney who can help you move forward effectively. Make sure you hire a legal team who understands the importance of your case and is committed to striving for the best possible outcome for you.