Do you want FREE access to the top 5 TRIAL TESTIMONY TIPS ever given? Click here.

What You Should be Doing 6 Weeks Before Your Custody Trial - Part 1

Generally speaking, this is what I am doing 6 weeks prior to a custody trial.  It's important to remember that deadlines differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. In part one, I'm going to talk about checking your local rules, reading the judge’s minute entries, calendaring deadlines, and the difference between disclosing exhibits and exchanging exhibits. 

Check Your Local, State or Country Custody Rules 

It is so important that you look at your local rules for important requirements and deadlines.  These will vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.  For example, in Arizona, a pre-trial statement is required by the courts but in other states, it is not a requirement. We will actually delve into pre-trial statements in Part two.  

Read Your Judge's Minute Entries

These are the minute entries for the judge setting trial. It's important for you to look at that minute entry where the judge sets trial and to calendar it. In...

Taking the Emotion Out of Your Custody Case


As you're going through a custody case it is important to make life as peaceful as possible for your children.  One of the ways that you can do this is to keep them out of the middle of the litigation.   It's my opinion that kids should not be in the middle of your case issues.

I know some of you have older kids and there's just no way that you can shield them from the litigation.  Other people have children who are going to be interviewed by the court or you are having custody evaluations and the kids know that something's going on.  Sometimes there's no way you can shield the children from it.   But I have so many cases that I see where people have their children right in the middle of their cases.  People are involving the kids and giving them a play-by-play.

Although the kids may say it's not stressful it really is stressful to them.   Think about how stressful your case is to you!  Kids need to be kids.  There are two...

Keeping Your Hands Clean During Your Child Custody Case

In the law, there is a term of art and it’s called ‘having unclean hands’.  What this means is when you're involved in court litigation and you have unclean hands you've either done something to violate a law, violate an agreement or a rule.  Oftentimes when somebody who has unclean hands or dirty hands is asking for a certain type of relief from the court and the court sees that that person has unclean hands the court may not be inclined to grant the relief because they say that person has unclean hands.

Often times when somebody who has unclean hands or dirty hands is asking for a certain type of relief from the court if the court sees that that person has unclean hands the court may not be inclined to grant the relief because they say that person has unclean hands.

 The reason I'm bringing this up now is that I'm involved in a highly contested child custody proceeding.  It’s a hotly contested proceeding and there's a lot of...

What If My Child Wants To Live With Me?

Let’s talk about how much weight the child’s wishes have in a custody case. What if your child wants to live with you? I have many people who come into my office and tell me that their child is telling them that they want to live with me full-time or they want to spend more time with me than they do with their mom or dad.

They reason that that should be the end of the story because my kid wants to live with me.   I wish that the answer were that easy but it's not.  In my Best Interest Checklist one of those factors is the interests or wishes of the child.  A judge is going to consider the wishes of a child if that child is old enough to articulate his or her wishes.   How old does a child have to be before a judge is going to start considering the child's wishes?  It depends on the law, the judge, and your child.

There are some children who are more mature at 8 years old than other 10 years old.  So really it depends on when your...

Do NOT Do This If You Want To Be Ready For Your Custody Trial

This is something that you do not want to do if you want to be prepared for your custody trial.   A couple of weeks ago a potential client came in to see me because she was getting ready for a divorce trial and was representing herself.   She wanted me to coach her a little bit and she was a really a kind person but during the whole consultation I was cringing because she had no clue what the court had ordered in terms of getting ready for trial.

When you're getting ready for your trials you cannot ignore the court orders.  You have to read all of the minutes in your case especially the minutes where the judge set your trial.  Chances are in those minutes the judge is going to give you very important information about what the judge wants to see happen prior to trial.   For example in Arizona when the judge sets trial the judge will give us deadlines in the minutes about filing pretrial statements.

The order will state when they're due and...

Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA)

I want to talk to you about child custody jurisdiction.  This has come up for me a couple times actually in the last week and it's a kind of an important topic.  If you haven’t heard of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act you need to learn about it.  It is also known in the legal world as UCCJEA.   It's an act that governs jurisdiction of child custody disputes and as I understand it all states except for one state subscribe to the UCCJEA.   

This is actually something I just learned a couple of days ago because I was consulting with one of my Command the Courtroom viewers who happens to have a case in Arizona.   She lives in Boston but the case was originated in Arizona and apparently Massachusetts does not subscribe to the UCCJEA.   The UCCJEA governs how jurisdiction is established and generally speaking in order for jurisdiction to be established in a place you and your children notably actually...

Know The Difference Between Joint Custody & Equal Parenting Time

This comes up a lot in my practice.  People come in to see me and they tell me I want joint custody and I don't think that they realize there are two aspects to custody.  There is the legal aspect of custody and is there is the physical aspect of custody.

The legal aspect of custody relates to who's making major decisions about the children.  Normally major decisions relate to major decisions in the area of medicine education religion and personal care.  Personal care is kind of a newer thing that's come up and it relates to for example, are you going to let your kid get a tattoo or get a nose piercing or color their hair. Those are personal care decisions.   Custody relates to major decisions in those areas. Custody does not relate to that day-to-day everyday decisions that you make when the child is in your care.  For example, the kid comes over to see you and spend time with you and is feeling a little under the weather.   You want to...

Using Financial Affidavits as Tools in Divorce & Child Support Cases


I wanted to talk to you about using affidavits of financial information as a tool in court litigation. These are also called a financial affidavit.  In Arizona every case involving child support, spousal maintenance, attorneys fees or any financial issues in a family law case,  both parties are required to complete an affidavit of financial information.

 An affidavit of financial information is a form that basically asks tons of questions.  You have to lay out every single expense that you have and at least the one in Arizona is pretty comprehensive.  It asks for everything down to pet expenses, the amount that you use for cigarettes, alcohol, recreation, entertainment, newspapers and haircuts.   Not only do you have to fill out all of your expenses, you also have to fill all of your income from all sources.   This is helpful especially in cases involving child support.  Over the past week I had two cases and they both involved...

Important Preliminary Orders To Be Aware of In Custody Cases


I'm currently dealing with some issues in a divorce case where people aren't following the preliminary orders that have been issued and it's causing all kinds of issues.  This case doesn't involve custody of children but it really brought to mind the importance of knowing what preliminary orders are in your custody case.  Here are some important types of preliminary orders that can be issued and need to be followed in divorce and custody cases.

When you file paperwork especially when it’s an initial case, there are some orders that go into effect immediately.   In Arizona those orders are called preliminary injunctions and when it relates to children one of the preliminary injunctions are that if there's a divorce you can't take the children out of state.

Neither party can take the children out of state without written agreement or a prior court order.   If it's a paternity case where the parties weren't married and if there's a birth certificate...

Joint Custody Agreements (The Devil is in the Details)

Whether you have joint custody agreement or sole custody agreement, the information I'm going to give you is still going to help especially when drafting your parenting time agreement.