Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Knowing the Signs

Child custody hearings can be emotionally charged and stressful for all parties involved. Parents are vying for custody of their children with the understanding that the outcome will have a significant impact on their lives, and the lives of their children. Plus, the final decision is ultimately out of their hands. While it can be easy to act out of emotion, it’s extremely important to be mindful when navigating a child custody hearing and to avoid making decisions that could have a harmful influence on the hearing, your child, and yourself. 

Common Mistakes to Avoid During a Child Custody Hearing

Throughout the duration of a child custody hearing, there are a few common mistakes that parents make that can have potentially very negative, life changing results. These hearings are sensitive, and parents should make informed, nonemotional decisions. Keep reading to learn about some of the most common mistakes, and how to avoid them.

1. Making Threats

Parents that display aggression, make threats, or engage in confrontational behavior can face severe consequences in their child custody hearing. It’s important to understand that courts prioritize the safety and well-being of the child above all else, and are rarely lenient. 

If a parent displays aggressive or threatening behavior, it raises concerns about the child’s welfare in that parent’s care and can jeopardize their custody prospects. The court may view such behavior as indicative of an unstable or unsafe environment for the child, even if you view your behavior as separate from the quality of environment you provide for your child. It is vital to remain calm, composed, and respectful throughout the entirety of the proceedings and beyond, demonstrating your ability to effectively co-parent and provide a nurturing environment for your child.

2. Providing an Unstable Home

A stable and suitable living environment is a critical factor that courts consider when determining child custody arrangements. Parents who do not have a stable home for their child may face significant challenges during a custody hearing. Courts define providing a stable home for children as having stable finances, suitable accommodation, and a nurturing environment. Providing evidence that you have the ability to provide a stable home can greatly enhance your chances of a favorable custody outcome.

3. Refusing to Cooperate with Co-Parent

Another common mistake parents make in their child custody hearing is refusing to cooperate with the co-parent. Courts generally favor parents who are willing to work together and facilitate a positive co-parenting relationship. Refusing to communicate, withholding information, or denying visitation rights can be viewed as detrimental to the child’s well-being and can raise concerns about your ability to effectively co-parent. Prioritizing the child’s needs and demonstrating a willingness to cooperate with the other parent is vital in achieving your desired outcome in your child custody hearing.

4. Breaking Court Orders

Disobeying court orders can make or break the outcome of a child custody hearing. Once a custody agreement or court order is in place, it becomes legally binding, and both parties are expected to adhere to its terms. Failure to comply with court orders can lead to a loss of credibility and may result in a modification of custody in favor of the other parent. The court wants to see that parents can respect and follow the established guidelines for the benefit of the child. It is crucial to demonstrate your commitment to upholding the court’s decisions by showing up when you are expected to.

Ways to Be Prepared for a Child Custody Hearing

Avoiding mistakes in a child custody hearing can make the difference between having custody and losing it. Make sure to approach your child custody proceedings with careful preparation and strategic decision-making. Here are some key steps to consider from our team of experienced family law attorneys:

1. Prioritize Your Child’s Best Interests

As you navigate your child custody hearing, it is vital to put your child’s interests above everything. Not only will this benefit your child, it will also support your case and more likely lead to your desired outcome. Throughout the custody hearing, consistently emphasize how your proposed custody arrangement serves the child’s best interests. For example, make it clear that you are able to provide a safe, stable, and nurturing environment for the child. Highlight your commitment to fostering the child’s emotional and physical well-being, as well as maintaining a strong parent-child relationship.

2. Understand the Law

Make sure you familiarize yourself with the child custody laws in your jurisdiction. Each state may have different guidelines and factors that the court considers when making custody determinations. Understanding the legal framework will help you navigate the process more effectively. Additionally, in New Mexico, the most common form of custody is joint legal custody because it often creates the most steady and secure situation for the child. Knowing this, you can go into your court proceedings well-prepared for a potentially likely outcome. Consulting with a legal professional can support you with getting informed and properly prepared for the child custody hearing.

3. Gather Evidence

Collecting and organizing all relevant evidence can support your case indefinitely. Evidence may include documentation of your involvement in the child’s life, proof of a stable living environment, records of parenting responsibilities, and any evidence that may demonstrate the other parent’s inability to provide a suitable environment for the child. Having well-documented evidence can greatly strengthen your position throughout the hearing.

4. Maintain a Respectful Demeanor

Maintaining a respectful demeanor is hugely important and can sometimes be overlooked. It is absolutely essential to remain calm, composed, and cordial throughout the entire duration of the hearing. Avoid confrontational behavior and arguments with the other parent or their attorney. Displaying maturity and cooperation can positively influence a court’s perception of your ability to co-parent effectively. Failing to act with composure and respect can potentially cost you custody, so be sure to communicate effectively and with kindness.

5. Comply with Court Orders

Make sure that you adhere to all court orders and follow any temporary custody arrangements in place throughout the hearing process. Failure to comply with court decisions can harm your credibility and negatively impact the court’s perception of your ability to prioritize the child’s best interests.

6. Seek Legal Guidance

Working with an experienced family law attorney who specializes in child custody is absolutely crucial in achieving your desired outcome in your upcoming child custody hearing. Attorneys can provide you with valuable advice, help you navigate the legal process from start to finish, and represent your interests effectively. At Sutherland Family Law, our attorneys are highly experienced in child custody cases and are available to guide you on what to expect, assist in gathering evidence, and present a compelling case to the court. 

If you are preparing for an upcoming child custody hearing, please contact our skilled team of attorneys at Sutherland Family Law to learn how we can best support you in gaining custody of your child or children. We understand how stressful these cases can be and look forward to the opportunity to help make it easier.