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6 Preparation Tips From a Child Custody Attorney

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 Attending your first custody hearing can be intimidating, especially if you’re not familiar with the general legal process. Some advance planning, however, can help you present a convincing case and make a positive impression on the judge. You’ll want to start by working closely with your child custody attorney in Houston. You must also show the court you are a responsible, loving parent who can give your child a safe and stable home.

6 Preparation Tips From a Child Custody Attorney in Houston

1. Understand the Child Custody Laws of Texas

Each state essentially follows its own child custody laws. Even with a lawyer by your side, it’s important to understand how these laws will impact you and your family. You can then plan accordingly and help your children prepare as well.

Courts in Texas divide child custody into two categories: conservatorship and possession and access. Texas Family Code states that unless evidence suggests otherwise, a child is best served when both parents are named as managing co-conservators. Conservatorship basically refers to the duties parents have toward their children, such as making decisions about healthcare and schooling.

Possession and Access

This phrase describes physical custody and visitation of children. Texas employs two schedules for possession and access – standard and extended standard – that define when parents can spend time with their children. Parties can, however, agree on different schedules to meet their unique needs. The court can also order a different schedule if it is in the best interest of the child.

2. Gather Necessary Documents

Your Houston child custody lawyer will provide you with a list of documents necessary for your court hearing. But it’s a good idea to start gathering common paperwork now so you have it in hand. For example, a parenting journal that describes your efforts to maintain a solid relationship with your child is important. You should also have:

  • Records of correspondence with the other parent
  • Your child’s medical records
  • Statements from teachers and authority figures showing you’re a responsible parent
  • A proposed parenting plan
  • A copy of your divorce decree (if applicable)

3. Establish a Safe and Wholesome Environment for Your Child

The judge wants proof you can give your child a loving environment that will nurture them throughout the years. This means caring for your own physical and mental needs to show that you make healthy, dutiful decisions. You should also use praise and rewards whenever possible with your children – rather than screaming and punishing – and establish reasonable but firm boundaries so children know what is expected of them.

When children do exhibit negative behavior, appropriate consequences might include timeouts, a privilege loss, or extra chores. The judge will want to understand the type of parent you are, and modeling desired behaviors now will show that you’re committed to responsible parenting.

4. Practice Proper Courtroom Etiquette

Parents hoping to win a child custody case must exhibit proper behaviors inside the courtroom. It’s important you and your attorney discuss what will be expected of you during the hearing. Some advance role-playing can grant you a better understanding of how the hearing will proceed, where you will sit, and where your ex-partner will be seated.

Keep in mind statements may be made during the hearing that you vehemently oppose. You must, however, resist the urge to yell, show emotional outbursts, or make accusatory statements. Such behavior will only anger the judge and paint you in a negative light.

Exercise Self-Control

Instead, remember that your relationship with your children depends on you staying calm. Only speak when your attorney advises you to do so or when it’s your turn. Appearing as a hothead with no self-control will work against your case.

5. Choose Appropriate Clothing

First impressions are always important, especially inside the courtroom. The way you dress impacts the way the judge sees you as a person and parent. Your goal should be to look as professional and nonthreatening as possible without distracting from the case.

With that in mind, you should choose neutral clothes in colors like gray, navy, white, or light blue. Bright colors may offend the judge or give an unintended impression. Also, choose conservative footwear and avoid t-shirts, hats, and shorts. Grooming is equally important, meaning your hair and clothes should be clean. Consider a hair trim, if necessary, and tidy up facial hair before going into court.

6. Consider Calling Witnesses

You and your child custody attorney in Houston will discuss this in greater detail, but witnesses can attest to your parenting practices and general character. Examples include social workers, family members, and church leaders. It’s important to pick people who know the bond you share with your children and how to articulate it to the court.

A custody hearing is your chance to show the court that you can provide a safe and loving environment for your children. But it’s essential that you properly prepare. Become familiar with state custody laws, collect important paperwork, and practice calm courtroom behavior. Also, give thought to what you will wear and speak to your attorney about calling witnesses. These steps will help support your case and portray you as dependable and caring.

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