How do you get ready for a custody hearing in Washington? For starters, educate yourself. Know ahead of time whether your situation rises to a child custody dispute or is something that you might be able to resolve differently.
Avoiding the hearing is possible
If you feel uncertain that you want to handle your child custody dispute in front of a judge, mediation could be a good option. A third party guides the negotiations between you and the child’s other parent. For the parent who can discuss matters reasonably and has a former partner who can do the same, mediation could be the best option.
When a child custody hearing is in your best interest
However, if there is significant animosity between you and the child’s other parent, a hearing discussing custody could be a better choice. However, be careful that you prepare well for court and be reasonable in your expectations. For example, if you insist on sole custody, you have to show that you are the better parent. Therefore, the judge will likely investigate extensively to see if your claim is correct.
Be sure to decide on your goals. While you may be willing to negotiate on some issues, there are others that you simply do not want to budge on.
In addition, it’s important to document your case. Put together notes that show any violations of the visitation agreement, child support order or other concerns you have.
Prepare to convince a judge
Unlike criminal cases, there will be no jury. The decision-making power belongs to the judge. Therefore, you have to aim your arguments and document selection to convince this individual. Doing so might involve typing your notes rather than handwriting them, presenting them in a folder rather than loose sheets and dressing the part.
Because of the contentious nature of child custody disputes, you may find it useful to discuss the matter with an attorney beforehand. Your attorney may help you prepare documentation and offer guidance in how to present yourself in court.