In our previous post, we began discussing the factors family court judges take into consideration when making child custody determinations. As we noted, the central consideration is what is in the best interests of the child. Because the circumstances in each case are unique, judges have to carefully look at all the facts and make an informed decision for the benefit and welfare of the child.
Again, one of the challenges of the process for parents is that advocating for themselves and their interests in the child is really a matter of convincing the judge that the plan or terms they are proposing are in the best interests of the child. Parents need to have a strong advocate at their side to ensure they build the strongest possible case with this aim in mind.
One of the things an experienced family law attorney will do in any child custody dispute is to ensure the judge has access to all the information he or she needs to make an informed decision. This especially means ensuring the court is informed of factors or circumstances that would result in harm to the child. It also means defending oneself when false or exaggerated claims are made by the other parent in an effort to sway the judge. Defending against accusation of abuse or neglect can be difficult, but is necessary.
Another reason to work with an experienced attorney is to help judges better exercise their discretion. This means helping to contextualize the various factors in the case and the evidence supporting the various allegations and claims. A zealous advocate will help ensure that a judge does not fixate on one or two factors, but puts everything in its proper context. Of course, at the end of the day, it is the judge’s decision, but taking an active role in the decision-making process can make all the difference.
An experienced advocate can also be valuable in addressing issues that come up after a child custody order is issued. We’ll say more about this in another post.