One of the most important things you need to do before you begin your custody case is be really clear on what you want.
You have to know what you want and you have to be able to express it to the judge. Because if you can't express it if you don't know, then there is no way you are going to be able to convince the judge in your custody hearing or the other party to give you what you want.
Another really important thing is not just know what you want but knowing the reasons why you want what you want. And making sure the reasons for your request actually support the request. I know this sounds kind of vague so I'm going to give you an example.
The other day I was in custody court on a case and I was representing the mother of a little 9-year old girl and she and Dad had been sharing joint custody several years. They had been doing really well from my client's perspective. They were also exercising an equal parenting time plan.
Out of nowhere Dad serves my client with paperwork to change custody from joint to sole custody He wanted sole custody of their child. In his paperwork he said he wanted that change because he felt their daughter had been having excessive tardies and absences while she was in my client's care.
We went to court and I was able to sit down before the custody hearing. It was a status conference and i was able to talk with the Dad about his concerns. In mind I couldn't really understand how too many absences would change if he had sole custody or sole decision making.
Because decision making or legal custody relates to who's making major decisions in the life of the child. Such as major educational decisions meaning whether the child's going to switch schools or not. Major medical decisions, major religious decisions and major personal care decisions.
So this tardy issue is not something that is a major decision. A tardy issue is more of an everyday type of situation. I really felt like if he was really concerned about this, then maybe we should be looking at one, whether the tardies were justified and if there was a good reason behind them. And if not then maybe a change in a parenting time plan would be appropriate.
So when I talked to the father about this he understood and he agreed with me that there was no fitness issues as far as my client's job with their child. He agreed that they had gotten along well and been able to make major decisions together in the past. In the end he agreed that the parties would keep joint decision making. And really that's the only change he was asking for. In his paperwork he wasn't asking that he get more time with the child, despite the fact that he didn't like the fact the child was tardy too much. He wanted equal time to say the same and my client was fine with it.
So they were able to sit down and talk about the school absence situation and the tardiness and it turns out that there were good reasons for that. So he was satisfied with that. That is just an illustration of a situation where I think what father really wanted was assurance that his daughter was going to tardy and that her school wasn't going to be affected and that she wasn't going to be missing too many school days.
This was an issue that could really have been talked about before he filed a lawsuit but his concerns really didn't support the request for sole custody. Before you file a lawsuit make sure your reasons support what you are asking for and as you move through your case check your reasons to make sure that they set a good tone and a good foundation for you presenting your case.