Courts don’t like to make child custody orders. No matter how they rule, one member of the couple is going to be unhappy. To most parents, the thought of not seeing their kids on a daily basis is a cause for grief.
Courts, too are conscious that they could make a terribly wrong decision. A child can be injured or killed if he or she is inadvertently dropped into an abusive environment. There is nothing a judge can do within 1 final hearing to get all of the information he needs to make a perfect custody order.
Besides, a lawyer’s training does not include much psychology. Attorneys do attend seminars to find out what the latest thoughts on child custody are. However, much of the child custody issue is based on facts, and facts can be hard to come by when a warring couple are trying to prove that they are Mary Poppins incarnate, and their ex is the spawn of the devil. independent custody evaluators can take the time to gather important information on the child’s life.
Others rely on guardians ad litem, custody evaluators or CASA to do objective research about your child’s life. Some parents hire private psychologists to do independent evaluations. When they have finished interviewing teachers, baby-sitters, coaches, friends and relatives, and studying school reports and doctor’s and dentist’s records, the evaluators make a report to the court. The judge usually reads the report, and unless there is something startling and new at the final hearing, makes its findings part of the final decree.
Some judges are willing to personally hear what all of the witnesses have to say. If your judge is not inclined to hire outside help to help her with the child custody issue, she will listen to what all of the witnesses have to say at the final hearing. She will be looking for information about the child, and won’t be happy with witnesses who stray into personal opinions.
If you call someone to the stand in a child custody case, it is best if they actually know something objective about the child. It isn’t very interesting to the judge that all of your friends and relatives think you’re a good parent. The judge assumes your friends and relatives like you, and want you to win. However, specific instances involving the child and the other parent might be useful if they illustrate something about the child or the parent involved to give the judge a clearer picture of the family’s dynamics.
If your grandmother gets on the stand to say that your ex isn’t worthy to spend time with his own children, she’d better have been there to observe an incident that proves her point. Otherwise, Granny is just voting for you in a popularity contest, and the judge will discount her opinion. He won’t think much of you for dragging her there to testify in the first place, either.
Judges are particular about what information they can consider in child custody cases. One of the biggest reasons they appoint evaluators is to cut down on the hours they would need to listen to all the possible testimony about the child’s life first hand. Giving the evaluator the wrong impression could cost you time and money you’d rather not spend. Mostly, however, you want to behave in a way that will make the evaluator, and eventually the judge, conclude that you are a mature, responsible adult who can be trusted with the care of your children.