Building up vs. tearing down

by Philip Yabut in

To say that child custody is a delicate matter is an understatement.  Emotions run high whenever a child is in the middle of a dispute, and when a court has to get involved, the stakes are all that much higher.

A child custody hearing is essentially a trial, complete with opening and closing statements, witness testimony and exhibits.  The object is the convince the judge that your proposed custody arrangement is is in the best interests of the child.  The judge will look at the evidence and testimony and consult the local jurisdiction's guidelines as to what will be the best arrangement for the child.  And absent evidence to the contrary, the default position is that the parents should have joint physical and legal custody.

Because this is such a touchy subject, it is easy to go ahead and try to demonize the other party and convince the judge that s/he is incompetent or incapable or something worse, and therefore would be unfit to have his/her proposed custody arrangement in place.  Pointing out the other side's faults may work well in a political campaign, but in these matters it is much more important to try to paint yourself or your client in the best light possible.  Do not get bogged down in telling the judge everything wrong with the other party -- instead, tell the judge why you are a good parent and rebut every point that the other side tries to charge against you through friendly witnesses and positive evidence.

See also:

Child custody guidelines -- DC ST § 16-914 Child custody guidelines -- Va. Code § 20-124.3

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