Preparing for Your Child Custody Resolution

Child custody cases can be complex and overwhelming affairs, something caused in large part to a lack of awareness preceding the process. Understanding what to expect, how to prepare, and how to handle various child custody procedures will go a long way in helping you resolve your custody case much faster and without quite so much headache. 

More importantly, a thorough understanding of this process and your available options creates more of an opportunity to get your children through the process with as little mental/emotional stress as possible. To help you with all of this, here we'll go over what you can typically expect, alternatives to court-based child custody disputes, and what you can do to make the process as amicable as possible.

Determining Custody:

Figuring out custody arrangements after a divorce is typically a high priority for splitting spouses, and there are a couple of ways in which to go about this process. If you're looking for something that's going to keep you and your children out of court, then you'll likely want to look into some form of mediation

Mediation is a more private affair that costs less, takes less time, and puts more control in the hands of those involved in a custody case. However, just as with any type of court proceeding, you'll need to come prepared if you're going to find the absolute best solutions for all parties involved. This means pulling together financial records, drawing up timetables that clearly state the various responsibilities of each party that could take time away from parenting obligations, and any and all documents you might create to support certain proposed arrangements. 

It's also very important to involve your children, to some degree, especially if they're older, school-age children. You're going to want to find a solution that causes the least amount of friction and that creates a balance between practicality and personal feelings.

You may decide that while it would be more logical from a logistics and financial standpoint that your children reside primarily with you, it may become clear that more emotional stress may be caused to the children through this arrangement. This could be caused by the children having to switch schools, move away from neighborhood friends and groups, or other disruptions to their personal routines.

With court litigation, these factors can also be taken into account, but you're also going to have to be prepared for the sort of decisions a judge will be making based on their own analysis of the situation.

It's important to understand that in a court-based situation, you're going to have to prove your case to a judge through a qualified legal team, and this may involve certain evaluations of your living situation, your finances, and even psychological evaluations of your children administered by court appointed officials.

For those seeking custody of children who are not parents - such as grandparents or other family members - the process is going to be a little different. Usually, these types of custody situations aren't going to be settled through mediation (although that is a possibility). Third parties seeking custody will have to file a specific petition with the courts, known as a non-parental custody petition.

This petition will require you to outline your own relationship with the children, whether the parents of the children are alive, deceased, or otherwise out of the picture, and why you're seeking custody and why your request is valid.

Court Rulings:

In most situations that involve a family court, you don't have to worry about multiple hearings and trials. Typically you'll have one hearing and one trial. The hearing will be your opportunity to present your initial claims and requests, thus establishing a valid basis for why a trial should take place. 

The trial will allow both parties to present evidence and witnesses backing up their requests. The judge will typically come to a decision rather quickly, so you won't have to worry about waiting days or weeks before knowing what to take on next. After the decision has been made, both parties will have the chance to appeal the decision made by the court and seek to have these decisions reversed/dropped.

Mediation:

With mediation, your child custody decisions are going to be agreement based and will be upheld through the creation of a contract that's drawn up by your mediator. This agreement can outline not only the particular custody and visitation arrangements, but also the sort of parenting styles that have been agreed to and the ways in which you both wish to approach situations, like out of town/state visits and trips.

You can also decide on child support through the mediation process, but if a dispute arises that can't be resolved - whether it's about child support or overall custody - then you'll have to turn to the courts in order to make a final, binding decision.

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