What to Expect at a Child Custody Hearing

One of the greatest challenges in divorce is agreeing on who has custody of the children.

Child custody can be agreed upon by the parents, which is usually the best approach. But in some cases, that’s just not possible.

When a court has to make a decision about child custody, it must decide based on what is in the child’s best interests. For that, the court will consider:

  • Who has been the primary caregiver of the child
  • The previous custodial arrangement
  • Any special needs or extenuating circumstances
  • Age and health of the child
  • History of violence, substance abuse
  • Employment of each parent and financial ability to care for children

What to Expect
If you’ve never been to court before, you might be expecting something like what you see on television. But in reality, a child custody hearing will most likely take place in a small courtroom, with only a few people present, including the attorneys on both sides and a judge.

The hearing probably won’t take long. Your hearing is part of a schedule for the day, and those involved have several cases to discuss.

Photo by Clyde Robinson.
Photo by Clyde Robinson.

During the hearing, each parent will speak, along with any witnesses. If the children are old enough to make informed decisions, they may be asked to speak. The judge may ask you questions, such as:

  • What is your financial status?
  • Why are you seeking the custody arrangement you are requesting?
  • What is your existing arrangement?
  • How is communication with the other parent?

The judge will then decide who is the custodial parent and a visitation schedule for the non-custodial parent.

If you want to know more about child custody and divorce, visit us at the Second Saturday Wake County divorce workshop.

Some of this information was provided by Second Saturday advocate Smith Debnam Law.

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