Preparing for Child Custody Hearings in Westborough
Preparing for child custody hearings in Westborough often involves navigating both the complex laws governing these disputes and the emotional implications that come with domestic litigation, especially when it directly involves your time and relationship with your child. Fortunately, having an experienced family law attorney’s assistance can help ease the stress commonly associated with child custody litigation.
Whether you need a lawyer to review a newly proposed custody plan or to defend your current parental rights before a family judge, you should contact the legal team at O’Connor Family Law. With over 35 combined years of exclusive family law experience, our dedicated attorneys can offer the guidance and support you need during these difficult and stressful proceedings.
What to Consider when Preparing a Child Custody Proposal
Local family judges must address both physical and legal custodial rights during initial child custody hearings. Therefore, co-parents must consider both the child’s living arrangements, needs, and safety as well as both parent’s decision-making rights when preparing custody proposals with legal counsel. These proposals may include sharing legal and physical custody equally, creating a residential custody plan according to the children’s school schedules, or giving one parent authority over certain decisions.
Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 208, §31 advises courts to presume fit parents have equal residential and decision-making rights when reviewing custody proposals for fairness. However, the law clearly states that courts should primarily decide custodial matters based on the children’s happiness and wellbeing. Whether co-parents are submitting joint proposals or individual parents are working on custody proposals separately with counsel, they must consider the following best interest factors when drafting a parenting plan:
- Both parents’ willingness to care for their children (i.e. their fitness as parents)
- The children’s wishes if they’re of a certain age and maturity
- Either parent’s ability to cooperate in child-rearing matters
- The stability of either parent’s home
- Any history of domestic abuse, child neglect, or illegal drug use
- The previous relationships and interactions between the children, parents, and siblings
- The child’s educational, social, and medical needs
- Both parents’ work schedules and their proximity to one another
If parents cannot agree on a joint custody proposal, a local attorney can prepare an argument that demonstrates why a certain plan best serves the children’s wellbeing.
How Can a Westborough Attorney Help Parents Prepare for a Child Custody Hearing?
To reduce the need for judicial intervention in family matters, prior to a hearing for temporary orders, the court will often require both parties and their attorneys to sit down and discuss settling the matter. Sometimes this is done with the help of a family court probation office (which is very different than the probation thought about within a criminal matter). If, after attempting to negotiate, you and the other parent cannot agree on all the contested issues, your attorney will have the opportunity to argue your side to the Judge. The Judge would then decide those matters and mail out an order after the hearing concludes.
Working with an experienced family attorney is essential when preparing for child custody hearings, because, if there is not a complete agreement, the judge ultimately makes the custody decisions – not parents. Even if you cannot afford to have an attorney go with you on the day of your hearing, you could sit down with an attorney to educate yourself on what the important points to get across to the Judge would be so you can argue appropriately on your own. One of our extraordinary attorneys can help you prepare proposals and gather the admissible evidence necessary to support your asserted position during your custodial hearings.
Gathering Evidence for Child Custody Hearings
Judges typically begin family hearings by asking whether the parents have come to a complete or partial agreement regarding custody. If so, the judge will review the proposed stipulation and determine whether it is being entered into freely and voluntarily. If there is anything that stands out as unusual, the Judge may question those issues and, if not satisfied with the answer or under the belief that one parent may not fully understand his or her rights or the consequences of the agreement they are seeking to enter, the Judge can reject it.
When parents disagree over specific custodial issues and the case goes to a hearing, each side will get to argue to the judge why their position is the right one. Typically, in a hearing on a motion for temporary orders, the Judge will not look at any physical evidence, take any testimony, or allow for any cross-examination. That does not mean that there may be certain things that the Judge may want to look at within that hearing. You should always be prepared to produce the following, if applicable to your case:
- DCF Reports
- Police Reports or Criminal History Records
- Photographs of any evidence of abuse
- Any relevant text messages, emails, and letters showing a direct contradiction to the argument your ex will likely make at court
- Medical records showing any lack of care if alleging neglect
A lawyer in our area can help parents gather the evidence generally sought by a judge to help solidify your position moving into a hearing. It can be frustrating for the parent who has this important information if the Judge decides he or she is not going to look at it within the hearing. Because of this, your attorney needs to be fully prepared to be able to argue the important points of each piece of evidence you have. When preparing for a hearing on temporary orders, make sure your attorney has any important documentation well in advance of the hearing so he or she can make sure they are fully prepared to put your best case forward.
Speak with a Westborough Attorney about Preparing for Your Child Custody Hearing
Going to court fully prepared to defend your rights and fight for your children’s best interests often shows judges that you take parenting seriously. Preparing for Westborough child custody hearings typically requires the assistance of a skilled attorney.
Our extraordinary legal team can help you gather evidence to support your custody plan or negotiate a joint parental responsibilities plan with a co-parent. For more information on how we can help you, call O’Connor Family Law today.