You researched the forms, the law, and the procedure, and you filed a petition or were served with one. Now its time to prepare for the conference, hearing, and/or trial. In preparing your case, ask yourself 3 questions:
- What do I want the judge to order?
- Why should the judge give it to me; and
- How am I going to prove it.
The analysis is what , why, and how? First let’s consider “the what.”
For instance, if you filed a petition for partial custody because you want to see your child more, consider exactly what you want the judge to order and write out a short, clear statement of specifically what you’re going to request. Everything and anything you prepare relating to “why you should get it,” and “how you’re going to get it,” should support you getting what you are asking for.
Suppose you only have every other weekend and one night every other week, and you want 50-50. For more time, you write: “every weekend Friday after work to Monday morning, before school. Summers at my place and she gets every other weekend during the summer.” That’s the what. Once you’ve done that, then draft a “why and how” in support of that agenda for argument and trial purposes.
Don’t waste time on arguing about things that aren’t related to what you are asking for. For instance, if you want every weekend and she only wants you to have every other weekend, don’t bring up that she cheated on you when you were married and that she parties until 2 am on the weekends when she doesn’t have the child. It’s irrelevant, distracting, and the judge doesn’t care. You are only going to discuss why your home is a good place to be every weekend and during the summer.
Going to family court isn’t like negotiating the price of a car where the dealer marks up the price, you low ball, and the two sides “split the difference” and compromise at the end. It’s more like baseball arbitration where each side submits a reasonable proposal and the judge picks one or the other. If you’re unreasonable and your ex is reasonable, you’re more likely to lose. If you suggest something realistic, you’re more likely to get what you want.
The “why” which is more involved. The “why” is the reasons you should get what you want; your explanation of why you’re reasonable. For instance, while you work a full 40-50 hours week from Monday to Friday, your weekends are free. She gets 5 days per week and doesn’t work full time – the child will have equal quality time with both parents even factoring in the work schedules. Mention your family and friend support system to help you during your parenting time. List the simple reasons without going into detail about the evidence or testimony.
For “the how,” write out, gather, and organize how you’re going to prove your case. Organize the relevant evidence, text messages, pictures, emails, stories, testimony, and witnesses that you’ll bring into court with you to testify that it’s in the child’s best interests for you to get what you want. Include everything that supports you. Forget how awful the other parent treats you and focus on the evidence that supports what you want. Judges don’t waste time hearing about how bad people are, they’re usually persuaded by the positive. Be as detailed as you can be in preparing the testimony you personally will give and what arguments you will make.
After you’ve written everything out, give yourself a cooling off period before memorizing and rehearsing. Discuss your ideas with your support network: parents, best friends, therapist/counselor, or trusted source. Get a consultation from a lawyer or trusted advisor so you have a perspective outside your own.
After you’ve confident in what you want to say, practice out loud and rehearse, as if you’re in the hearing room itself. Do it enough until you can talk naturally and not like you’re reading a book. Ideally, you want to appear like you are conversing and only checking notes once in a while to be sure you’ve covered everything.
In summary, organize the what, the why, and the how. Draft, wait, review with someone else, revise and practice. If you do all that, you’ll show that you care and will have a better chance at a good result. If you need a lawyer, click the “Request Consultation” button for a free case evaluation.