Divorce is almost always accompanied by mental, emotional, and financial baggage. While the division of finances and splitting up of assets is a given, you also need to find a way to cope with a way of life that is alien to you. Add minors and the process of getting custody into the equation, and the situation becomes even more complicated.
Fighting for custody of minor children is not just tough on you, but it can be devastating for the children involved. What’s more, despite the fact that the judge in your case may be used to hearing custody cases, he or she is not predisposed to the intimate details and family dynamics of your particular situation. Further, he is required to be impartial. He must make decisions based on the law as it relates to the facts in each case.
So, your custody case, though extremely important to you, can be rubber-stamped in a way you don’t like unless you take charge of it. The custody hearing is one place to do that. Below are tips that can help you maximize your chances of convincing the judge that you’re capable of being the primary caretaker for the minors in question.
Find the Right Cases
Finding the right appellate cases is the key to making your best argument and persuading a judge to rule in your favor. To do that, you’ll first want to look for cases with facts that are most like yours. Then, among those cases, find ones in which the person in a position similar to yours prevailed.
Every jurisdiction in the nation is chock full of divorce and custody cases. You will have a wealth of information to plow through. Luckily, you don’t have to figure all that out on your own. You can find help to narrow down the issues and cases you look at so you don’t waste precious time on those that aren’t relevant.
Knowing case law and the issues judges take into consideration when making their decision can help you walk into court prepared.
Learn to Persuade
You can persuade in writing, but oral argument is more convincing because judges oftentimes merely glance at the written motions and pleadings. In oral argument, they listen.
Before you get to court, understand your argument and practice, practice, practice. To persuade the judge that his best and only choice is to rule in your favor, use cases and statutes, referred to as legal authorities. Still, you don’t simply go into court and dump a bunch of law on the judge. Rather, you weave in the law, especially case law, with your own set of facts.
In court, show the judge that your own situation looks just like the situation in the case that you’re citing. In other words, make it real for them. Again, convince them that your way is the best way.
In a custody case, for instance, focus on why you’re the best person to raise the child or children. Why you? Because legal authorities support your position.
Additional guidance for preparing for your day in court can be found here.
Be On Time and Look the Part
How you look and act says a lot about you. In some cases, it can be just as important or even more important than the research and background work you’ve done on your case. So, if you’re interested in getting custody of your children, make it a point to show up on time. There’s nothing like being late to tell a person that you’re less than serious about the matters at hand.
Furthermore, dress sharply because impressions matter. You don’t have to dress like a lawyer, but be neat. When you dress well and are punctual, you show the judge that you’re responsible. If you’re the parent taking the children to court, dress your children properly as well. Again, this makes a good impression on the judge. It shows him or her that you can take care of your children.
Keep Emotions at Bay
A lot of emotions come with being pro se. It’s your case. You’re directly affected by the outcome of it. So, high emotions are natural. Add to this a divorce and custody battle, and there’s nothing more emotional. It’s real personal and hits you where it hurts. Despite this, you must keep your emotions at bay.
Raising your voice to prove that you’re the better parent is tempting, but, doing so in a court setting can negatively impact your chances of getting custody. Rather than focus on the shortcomings of your ex and losing your cool, center your arguments on how you’re the better and more deserving parent. Prove that you’ve been more available and thoughtful of the needs and requirements of your children.
In general, always remain respectful of all parties during court proceedings, whether that is the lawyers, your ex or the judge. Be on your best behavior in court and during out of court communications. That means abstain from posting anything on social media that can be used as evidence against you or used to cast you in a negative light. It also means, being polite in email and phone calls with your ex or their attorney.
Be area that it’s not beneath an attorney to turn your emotion into a win for your ex.
Be Emotionally Invested in Your Children’s Lives
There aren’t many things that can help you win your custody case as much as statements provided by the children themselves. Being emotionally invested in your children’s lives and knowing about their personal needs, goals, and aspirations is the best way you can prove you deserve custody.
If your children are convinced that you’re the better parent and want to stay with you, it will be easier for you to prove in a court setting that you deserve custody.
In addition, by focusing on your children’s well-being, you can show the court how you’ve managed to deal with the messy divorce situation responsibly. Children need attention and emotional stability. This is your opportunity to prove that you can keep emotional stress and baggage out of the equation for the betterment of your children.
Consider A Custody Evaluation
While this doesn’t occur to most people, especially at a time as taxing as the weeks after a divorce, getting a professional custody evaluation can make all the difference in the outcome of your case. Should the results be in your favor, you’ll have a professional opinion as proof that you deserve custody. Learn more about custody evaluations here and here.
When it comes to custody proceedings, preparation drives the results. You want to persuade the judge that you deserve custody. Pivotal to your success is making a strong case with research, attitude, and behavior so you have the best chance of being the one still standing at the end of the day.