How to Prepare for a Temporary Custody Hearing

By Brenna Davis

A temporary custody hearing occurs when one person seeks temporary custody of a child pending a final resolution of the custody matter. These hearings are most commonly a part of a divorce proceeding, but may also occur when a grandparent or other figure seeks custody of a child when the parents are unable to provide proper care. In some states, temporary custody hearings are automatic whenever there is a divorce or dispute over custody. In other states, you must file a petition with the court seeking a temporary custody hearing. Consult your state laws or a family law attorney.

A temporary custody hearing occurs when one person seeks temporary custody of a child pending a final resolution of the custody matter. These hearings are most commonly a part of a divorce proceeding, but may also occur when a grandparent or other figure seeks custody of a child when the parents are unable to provide proper care. In some states, temporary custody hearings are automatic whenever there is a divorce or dispute over custody. In other states, you must file a petition with the court seeking a temporary custody hearing. Consult your state laws or a family law attorney.

Child's Best Interests

Child custody decisions are made according to the best interests of the child in all 50 states. Some states provide specific factors that judges should consider in determining the child's best interests. These factors can include the relative parenting competence of each parent, each parent's willingness to foster the child's relationship with the other parent and with siblings, the child's attachment to each parent and the stability of the child's environment. In temporary custody hearings, judges often favor the status quo. For example, if the father has been the primary caretaker for the child and is not unfit, he is more likely to be awarded temporary custody.

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Presenting Evidence

At the hearing, you may present any evidence that demonstrates that you having temporary custody is in the child's best interest. Evidence can include school records demonstrating the child is doing well under your care; police reports of any abuse or violence with the other parent; emails and texts demonstrating problems with the other parent; and medical or psychiatric records. You may also call witnesses who can testify to your parenting competence or who have witnessed inappropriate behavior by the other parent. A few states allow witnesses at temporary hearings only if there is an allegation of abuse, so check state laws or consult your attorney before bringing witnesses with you.

Child Experts

In many states, judges are authorized to appoint child experts to give testimony at custody hearings. These experts may include a court-appointed special advocate who investigates the child's living situation and makes a recommendation; a guardian ad litem who can file motions on behalf of the child and her best interests; or a psychologist who can administer evaluations of the child and her parents. People seeking custody may also hire their own witnesses. If you disagree with the recommendation of a court-appointed expert, it can be helpful to hire your own expert to give a different opinion. Make sure the expert is qualified to give an opinion. For example, a psychologist who works primarily with the elderly may not be qualified to make a custody recommendation.

Temporary Order

After hearing evidence and arguments, the judge will issue a temporary custody order. These orders may last for a set period of time such as a year, or may expire when a final custody order is issued as part of a divorce decree. When temporary custody is issued because a parent is sick, in jail or otherwise unable to care for the child, the temporary order may expire when the parent is again able to care for the child. You must abide by the terms of the temporary order. Failure to do so is contempt of court.

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14 Year Olds' Rights in Custody Hearings in Arizona

References

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Laws on Divorced Parents Who Want Custody

Child custody proceedings can be extremely contentious because both parents generally believe they're trying to do what's best for their children. Each state has its own set of laws covering the standards under which custody is granted, the procedure for filing for custody, and the circumstances under which sole or joint custody is appropriate. If you wish to seek custody of your children, consider hiring a family lawyer who can help you navigate the often complex family law system.

How to Build a Child Custody Case

When building a child custody case, the goal is to present to the judge facts and evidence to support the assertion that the child's best interests are better upheld by awarding custody to you as opposed to your child's other parent. When determining the child's best interest, the court weighs a number of factors, which are found in your state's child custody statutes. In preparing for the case, you and your lawyer will engage in the civil discovery process, which may include the appointment of an independent third-party guardian ad litem. In the family court setting, which is heavily fact-driven, the judge will require you and the other parent to present as much information as possible about the child's life and surroundings in order to make a fully-informed decision.

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In some cases, it is in the best interest of the child to create a temporary custody arrangement before the court makes a final determination of custody. Temporary custody is often awarded in cases of divorce, but it may also become an issue between unmarried parents. Additionally, in cases of abuse, a grandparent or other relative may seek temporary custody of the child.

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