Most parents who are getting divorced or living apart are able to negotiate a parenting plan for child custody and visitation time. But not in every case. Parents who disagree strongly about child custody may end up in court. So can parents whose relationship has reached the point that they cannot trust each other enough to negotiate in good faith.

Though your case will most likely settle out of court, you need to prepare for the possibility that you will need to argue your case before a judge. With so much at stake regarding your child’s future, you should do everything possible to help yourself and your attorney make a convincing argument.

Showing the judge your best side as a parent

Here are four ways you can best prepare for a child custody hearing.

  1. Before the hearing, you and your lawyer should go over how you are the better parent and what you should highlight about your relationship with the kids to give the judge the best impression of you.
  2. Have all the necessary documentation. Your attorney will work with you to make sure you have the right documents, such as the current custody schedule and personal records. If you are seeking sole custody because your co-parent is abusive, you should document incidents of abuse and neglect.
  3. When it’s time for court, you should dress appropriately. What you wear could affect the judge’s perception of you as a parent.
  4. Similarly, you should do your best to stay calm and professional during the hearing. Avoid emotional outbursts or making personal accusations against your co-parent. Though there won’t be a jury, it will still be an official, legally binding court hearing in front of a judge. Inappropriate statements or actions on your part could ruin your case, no matter how well the facts line up in your favor.

If going to court is necessary, your family law attorney will help you prepare, so you will know what to expect.