The aim of this article is to help you prepare for the child custody battle, to understand what you may come across, and to help you stay organized and have a grasp of what the judge might ask in the process.
The following are some of the common questions that you should anticipate:
1. What is your current financial position?
This question is automatic in a child custody hearing battle. It seeks to answer whether the parent seeking custody of the child has the financial ability.
This will also guide the court in matters relating to child support and parents may be tasked according to their financial ability.
You should also note that winning custody is not solely based on the financial position of the parent.
There are many factors the court will consider, therefore, you should give accurate information in regards to your financial status.
2. What is your employment status?
Employment status is also a concern for the judges.
As the court tries your case, they will want to know whether you are employed full-time, part-time, or self-employed.
Being employed or unemployed does not automatically affect the outcome of the case but it is part of the judges thought process when deciding on matters of child support.
3. Do you have a consistent source of income?
This is a subsequent question that may be asked by the court during a child custody hearing.
The judge will want to know whether you have been the breadwinner in the family, and whether you will offer stable support for the children.
This will already be a volatile time for you and the children. The court doesn’t want to add financial struggle to the mix.
4. What type of custody arrangement is suitable for you?
If it isn’t clearly spelled out in the initial petition for custody you file, the court will usually want an answer to this question in the first or second appearance.
Of course, there are different types of custody arrangements that include sole and joint custody.
The court will want to determine what you and your ex-partner are seeking so they can plan accordingly how long this trial may last.
Always remember to put the child’s best interests first when answering this inquiry.
5. Why do you think the custody arrangement you are seeking is the best for the child/children?
Whether you are seeking sole or joint custody, the other parent will typically be seeking a different custody arrangement (otherwise you probably wouldn’t be in court).
This will lead the judge to dig more to find the reasons behind the custody arrangements that you are seeking.
For example, if you are seeking the court to grant you sole custody over the child, the court may want to know the reasons why you think sole custody is in the best interests of the child.
Keep your answer short and to the point, don’t ramble on or start reciting a long list of all your ex’s faults. You are not going to wrap up the case in one brief speech on this day, so just give a brief outline.
6. Do you have any parenting plans in place?
In some instances, the parents may have agreed, in part or whole, on how to raise the child or children.
This will include pick up/drop off times, holiday schedules, babysitters, insurance, school arrangements, and sports or social activities.
The court likes when some of the pieces of the puzzle are in place, this makes their job much easier.
If there are no agreements between the parties, the parents will be asked individually what they have in mind for a parenting plan.
It will serve you well to give this issue some thought before court. You don’t need to have all the answers, but it’s important to show the court you are being mindful of it.
7. Do you have any visitation agreements?
After separating with your spouse, you will have undoubtedly made some arrangements regarding visitation.
Whether it’s a chaotic schedule thrown together at the last minute, or a well oiled precision operation, the court will want to know the plan moving forward.
Many times the Judge will suggest a temporary schedule for the duration of the custody case, including pickup and drop-off times for the child, until the case can get sorted out “permanently”.
When you have prior agreements written, the court will typically approve them moving forward, provided it is preserving stability for the children and maintaining a sense of routine.
8. How much time do you spend with the child/children?
This is often asked by the court to establish which parent has a stronger presence in the child’s life, at least currently. These circumstances can always change as time goes on.
Girls and boys will tend to spend more time modeling the parent they will grow up to be like, obviously.
Young children may need to be with Mom if she is still nursing, of course.
With all things being equal, the court will want to know whether you have kept in contact with the children, and how often.
If one parent now lives far away and the children perhaps are busy with school, these circumstances will be taken into consideration.
9. Where are you currently living, and what are your living arrangements?
The court will want to know if one parent is moving out, or both parents have found new residence.
Are these temporary arrangements? Are you waiting for the proceeds of selling the home you shared?
Are the children still close to school, to family, and friends?
The judge will also want to know if either parent has moved in with a roommate, whether it be just a friend or a new partner, and how that may affect the children.
10. Do you have any plans to relocate?
The goal of the court is to ensure the stable upbringing of the children, with established routines and a safe environment for them to thrive in.
That may lead the court to ask this particular question….
Do you have plans to relocate if you are granted custodial rights over the child or children?
This can go both ways in a custody battle. If you are accepting a great job in another state, and you would be moving the kids out of a terrible part of town, this can shift in your favor.
But if it is just a plan to deny the other parent’s involvement in the child’s life, the court will be quick to intervene.
If you have such relocation plans, you should explain to the court without being biased against your ex, that this is for the best interests of the child and not a plot to cut them out.
11. Do you communicate with the other parent?
Both of you as parents should always communicate for the sake of the children.
This is sometimes easier said than done, when you are feeling bitter or betrayed by your ex, but there should always be good communication unless the other parent becomes hostile.
This question is often asked by the court to find out whether you can cooperate in matters relating to the children or not.
Don’t paint a rosy picture of perfect cooperation if that’s not the case… or label the other parent as hostile if he or she is not.
Of course, this may also be a simple YES or NO depending on what the judge wants to find out.
12. How often do you communicate with the other parent?
If the answer to the previous question is YES, the court may also be interested in finding out how often you communicate, is it daily, weekly, monthly, or any time you may want to communicate.
In addition to that, do you have an agreed communication plan?
The court is always interested in finding out details about communication since it is important for the best interests of the child or children.
Therefore, you should expect this kind of question if you are facing a child custody case in court.
13. When you communicate, do you agree on issues about your children?
Of course, if you don’t communicate at all, you may not expect this particular question.
But if you have been communicating with your ex-spouse, the judge will be interested to know whether you can agree on issues that concern your children or not.
This is important for the court, as it indicates if most communication between the parents will go through the lawyers or court papers.
If you can’t communicate with your ex-spouse on these issues, the court will think that having the child live with you most of the time is not in the child’s best interest as it would create conflict between parents and child.
14. How would you describe your relationship with the other parent?
Do you get along well enough that you can spend some time with the other parent at a school function without arguing?
Are pickups and drop offs peaceful, or are child exchanges done at the police station with restraining orders involved?
The court will want to know how you feel about your child’s other parent, since they are evaluating whether or not you can work together for the child.
So don’t say something like “she is a terrible mother who lets her kids do whatever they want” if that really isn’t the case. Your child custody attorney may object but there is no reason to be nasty or dishonest about it.
This is meant to find out facts, not opinions. The only opinion that counts is the judge’s in this matter regardless of your feelings about the other parent.
Leave emotions aside when answering such a question since you don’t want to mix your emotions with the facts.
15. How often do you communicate with the child/children?
This is also a very common question to expect in a courtroom when dealing with a child custody case.
Both parents need to keep communicating with the child or children even after they separate.
If you don’t communicate, or often as you should, are there any barriers?
Is it that the child or children doesn’t want to communicate with you, is it about child support, child visitation, custody issues?
Whatever the reason is, this should be communicated not only to the court but also to your child custody attorney/lawyer who will help you in getting things done.
16. How would you describe the relationship between you and the child/children?
Do you have a strong relationship with the child or children? Has the situation changed since after the split?
If it has changed, is there any particular reason or reasons for that?
In some instances, your relationship with the child or children may deteriorate after separation due to a number of reasons.
For instance, child support issues may become a problem. Or child visitation and custody can be the reason.
Children can have a hard time understanding why they don’t see both parents on a daily basis like before.
Some children will blame themselves, some will blame one or both the parents.
Sometimes this blame is encouraged by a toxic parent who doesn’t realize the damage they are doing.
The child custody case will be affected a great deal if the child feels alienated in one way or another.
17. Are there any domestic squabbles between you and your ex-partner?
The court will want to know whether there are squabbles or quarrels between you and your ex-spouse.
When you disagree, how do you solve your issues? To what extent can the arguments go?
Some domestic squabbles may not be a big deal especially if you and your child’s other parent have child custody plans and child support worked out.
However, some disputes are a big concern for the court.
For instance, are there any threats of violence? Has one of you ever been arrested or charged with child abuse or domestic violence related crimes?
If you have always argued without solving issues, keep the emotions aside and explain the nature of arguments that you and your ex have been undergoing before and after you separated.
18. How do you solve issues about your child/children?
Do you try to resolve child custody disputes amicably?
Of course, it is important to have a strategy on how to solve issues that may come along as you raise your children.
Since you have separated and are now facing a custody battle, the court is determined to know whether you have plans in place to solve issues that touch on the child or children.
The judge wants to know whether you are able to discuss and settle important matters without involving the court before making a decision yourselves.
At some point, if the issues are complicated, the court may recommend you to a mediator who will try to bring you together to agree on a plan for the best interests of the children.
19. How strong is the bond between you and your child/children?
The court wants to know the emotional bond that exists between you and the child or children.
It is a common question that can apply to both parties in a child custody battle. You should, therefore, be prepared to explain the bond that you and your children have.
Of course, you and your ex may claim a deep emotional bond but you should be honest since at some point, if the children are interviewed, they may be asked the same question.
This is reflected in how you communicate with your child or children, and whether they feel safe, loved, and protected with you, or when they visit and they seem they don’t want to leave.
You should include any special traditions or family rituals you share with your children to illustrate the life you’ve built with these little people, and how much you don’t want that to end.
20. How do you describe the other parent?
This is a tricky but common question that you may be asked when facing a child custody case.
You may want to paint the other parent as irresponsible, hostile, uncaring, and more.
But be warned, it doesn’t sound good for the court to hear all the negative statements being spewed on the other parent.
In this case, be factual and don’t be emotional.
Remember, you will not be granted custody by painting the other parent in a bad light.
If indeed the other parent or your ex-spouse is irresponsible and hostile, you should make it clear to the court, but at least try also to touch on the positive side of him or her.
Always describe the other parent in a sober way without being blatantly biased.
In the end, you want the best interests of the children to prevail.
21. What role do you play in your child’s daily life?
After everything else, what is your role in the life of the child or children?
This is likely to be asked in the courtroom where you are facing a child custody case.
You should state your role as a mother or as a father regardless of how shattered your relationship with your ex-partner is. This is about you and the children.
Do you help out at school? Are you taking them to after school programs? Are you a den leader or team mom?
Do you make sure they are eating right, practicing good hygiene, getting to spend time with positive forces in their life?
Don’t try to paint yourself with false information. The court, by asking this particular question, wants to know your impact on the child or children’s daily life.
This will also serve to inform their decision, but not entirely by itself.
For the sake of preparation, the list above can be helpful, but does not cover every question you may encounter over the duration of the child custody hearing.
You should, therefore, be prepared to answer these and any others pertaining to your parenting style and capability in the best way you can.
Always be honest and factual without misrepresenting facts or being biased.
You should note that the decision of the judge or the court will favor the best interests of the child or children.