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What to expect at your first child custody hearing

Ideally, you and your spouse have come to a mutual agreement concerning the custody of your children. Doing so outside the courtroom may set a precedent for future negotiations. Whether you like it or not, you and your ex will be doing a lot of negotiating as your children grow and their lives and interests change and become more independent.

However, if things between you and your spouse are not amicable, you may be preparing for a custody battle that may end with one of you retaining custody and the other resigned to visitation privileges. Undoubtedly, the weight of this hearing is heavy on your shoulders.

Preparing for the hearing

Understanding the way the courts work when deciding custody questions will be essential to your ability to present a successful case. A judge considers numerous factors, but the underlying question is, "What is best for the child?"

If your spouse is requesting full custody, your task is to demonstrate to the court that you are the better parent. This doesn't necessarily mean you must paint a picture of your ex-spouse as a monster, but it will mean pointing out to the judge your strengths compared to your ex's weaknesses. Some ways you may do this may include:

  • A phone log that shows the frequency of contact between your children and the other parent
  • A visitation schedule noting how much time your former spouse spent with the children and the occasions when he or she failed to show up at appointed times
  • Evidence that your ex-spouse has missed child support payments
  • Medical records, photos or other proof that your children were injured or became ill while in the care of your ex

Presenting yourself in the best light is also important. Your demeanor in the courtroom will be under scrutiny, so emotional outbursts or displays of a negative or uncooperative attitude may not go over well with the judge. Additionally, while it may seem like a minor detail, your appearance may demonstrate to the judge your attention to good hygiene and grooming, as well as your understanding of how serious these proceedings are.

Educating yourself

Before you step into the courtroom, you may find it helpful to have a good understanding of what will take place. Your attorney can explain the custody laws particular to Colorado, as well as describing what you can expect throughout the hearing. You may even wish to role play with your attorney to ease your mind about how the day will proceed. The more prepared you are, the more likely you will appear relaxed and confident before the judge, putting your best self forward for the sake of your children.

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