How To Prepare For A Temporary Custody Hearing
If your Family Law Attorney has recently filed an action for divorce or separation, and an initial hearing has been scheduled, you need to know how to prepare for a temporary custody hearing if custody of children is an issue.
First, get your “story” together. Draft a statement, no more than 4 pages long, 12 point type at 1.5 line spacing. State why you are the better custodial parent. If you have always been the primary custodian, this your main argument. Detail everything you do for the kids on a daily basis and state why it is best for the kids that this arrangement continue. Give lots of detail.
If you have not been the primary custodian, and you either want custody or want a 50-50 arrangement, you need to state why this is best for the kids. Talk about your bond with the kids and describe the children in terms that only you would know if you truly had a close bond. Talk about their likes, dislikes, what their favorite food is, their best subjects in school, their best friend, etc.
Unless there is significant fault on the part of the other parent, such as substance abuse, violence, neglect, we have found it helpful not to “bash” the other parent. For example, some women will say that the children are “afraid” of dad because he yells, slams doors, stomps around the house, etc. Without corroborating evidence that the children are really fearful of dad, this kind of argument will almost always fall on deaf ears. Rather, we have had much more success taking the high road, and focusing on the kids by showing through the evidence how the plan we are proposing is best for the kids.
Next, you want 4 additional affidavits, one page long, 12 point type and 1.5 spaces between lines. These are corroborating affidavits, and each affidavit must corroborate a different aspect of your affidavit. For example, a day care provider can provide an affidavit that corroborates your claim that you are the parent who provides all transportation to day care and attends all the meetings with at the school. A neighbor can speak to your close bond with your children and your excellent parenting skills. A third person can talk about the physical condition of your home. You don’t want 4 corroborating affidavits all saying that you are a good parent. That is simply a waste of time.
Get these drafts to your Family Law Attorney at least one week before the temporary custody hearing. Your attorney should then review and revise each affidavit personally. Many lawyers let paralegals do this work, but these affidavits are the only evidence that the court will have upon which it will base its ruling. The lawyers need to be intimately involved in completing the affidavits because it is the attorney’s, not the paralegals, that will be going to court and and asking the court for a decision that is based upon the evidence contained in the affidavits. A local attorney told us recently that her paralegal prepares all affidavits and she reads them on the way to court. We have never lost a case to this lawyer, and now I know why!
Be mindful that this process is expensive. To properly prepare for and attend a temporary custody hearing costs between $3,500 to $5,000. Last summer, one particularly contentious temporary custody hearing cost our client nearly $8,000. A temporary custody hearing is extremely important and can not be taken lightly. The ruling at this hearing will likely be in effect for at least a year, and will establish a status quo upon which a court can rely in formulating a final, permanent order. If you follow my advise, and prepare the first drafts of your affidavits as I have suggested, you will help your Family Law Attorney significantly and keep you costs down, while giving you an excellent chance to prevail at the temporary custody hearing.