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Home » What Happens During a Child Custody Hearing?

What Happens During a Child Custody Hearing?

June 20, 2024

The prospect of a child custody hearing can be scary for parents if they haven’t settled their custody and parenting issues. A hearing is an issue-focused trial. There is no jury, but parties are present in a courtroom with their attorneys, and there is a judge who will render a decision. If you’re getting divorced, your attorney will explain the precise steps involved in preparing for and participating in a child custody hearing. However, the general rules and procedures are as follows:

Preparing for the Hearing

Both sides conduct discovery to gather information that will be needed for the hearing and in negotiations between the parties. Typically, discovery starts with a “Request for Production,” wherein each party asks the other side for particular documents. Discovery may also include requests to admit, interrogatories, and depositions. Parties must respond to requests within the period established by law.

During this period, the parties may also obtain information from third parties, such as schools, teachers, counselors, family members, and others.

At least 5 days before the hearing, both sides must submit a list of all evidence they reasonably intended to present during the hearing. They must also submit their proposed orders, which is what they request the court to Order concerning custody and/or parenting time.

The Hearing

During the hearing, witnesses may be called to testify. These may include the child’s parents, guardian ad litem, family relations counselor, nanny, teacher, doctor, family members, and therapist (if privilege is waived or the court allows it), and anyone else who has observed the child or been involved in the child’s life. 

Parents may testify regarding circumstances relevant to determining what is in the best interest of their child and demonstrating their efforts to cooperate with each other. The children in the matter are rarely called to testify.

Exhibits will also be offered at the hearing, including emails, text messages, videos, and third-party records.

After all the relevant evidence has been presented, attorneys will make their closing arguments. They may also provide written briefs to the court.

A hearing can take hours or days, depending on the issues in contention and the evidence to be presented.

The Decision

The judge has 120 days from the close of the hearing to render a decision. However, an immediate decision can be made in an emergency.

Few people imagine going through a child custody hearing, but working with an experienced family lawyer can help ensure that you are prepared and have a strong advocate on your side.

Our attorneys have extensive experience handling child custody matters. If you are considering divorce, contact us for a consultation to discuss how we can assist you in achieving a positive result.

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