Family: Establishing Legal Custody - Conducting Yourself in Court


In deciding who should have custody, the judge will base the decision on what is in the "best interest of the child." When you go to court for your hearing, you should be prepared to present to the judge your argument/case for why you should have custody. Remember that the standard is "best interest of the child." In our experience, it is good to first show why you are best person to have custody before you state why the other person is not. Therefore, in your testimony, focus on what you can offer the child. 

You will need to show to the judge that you have a stable, secure and safe home for your child.

1.  you can offer your own testimony as to the type of home you have,

2. offer other witness testimony of people who have seen your home,

3. bring pictures of your home.

4. If you can think of other evidence that may show that your home is good and safe, you may bring that also.

NOTE: It will be up to the judge whether to allow the evidence you offer to come in.

1. You can show this by testifying to what types of things you do with your child when you have him/her (i.e. going to the park, helping with homework, etc.).

2. If the child has a schedule, he/she has to stick to when he/she is with you, tell that schedule to the judge. This will help to show the judge that you have a rule-base that your child must follow.

3. Tell the judge what kind of things your child likes to do.

4. Explain to the judge how actively involved in your child’s life you are. For example, if you attend parent-teacher conferences regularly, or if you take the child to church with you, or to family events, tell the judge that.

5. You may also have witnesses or other evidence to show these things to the judge.

1. Among other things, you can do this by telling the judge what kind of job you have, what hours you work, etc.

NOTE: If there is any allegation by the other person that you are mentally ill or have had other problems, such as drug or alcohol, in the past, give evidence, in the form of testimony, witnesses or otherwise, to show that you are stable and do not have any problems now, or that you are under treatment or in compliance with treatment.

Remember that the judge wants to do what is best for the child, so he/she is going to want any and all information you can provide to let him/her know that the child is safe with you and that it is in his/her best interest to live with you or visit with you

After you have demonstrated why it is in the child’s best interest to be with you, you may then tell the judge any reasons you think that the child should not be with the other person. For example, they do not have a stable home, or the home environment is unsafe.

1. You may want to give testimony of problems the other parent has had with parenting, for example, allegations of abuse/neglect, or if there is a DSS investigation.

2. You may also give evidence of problems that affect the other person's parenting, particularly if it has affected the child. For example, alcohol abuse, domestic abuse etc.

3. If you have evidence to support your reasons you may offer it to the judge as well. 

How you act in court can play a large role in what the judge thinks of you as a parent, among other things.

1. It is good to dress for Court as you would for a job interview or to attend church.

2. Do not raise your voice, even if the other person and/or his/her attorney make you angry. Try to remain calm and collected.

3. Do not interrupt when the judge or other person/attorney speaks.

4. Above all, do not lose your temper. Custody hearings can be very stressful and trying for anyone, but you do not want to make the judge think that you cannot handle stress or that you have an anger problem. If you are upset and need to take a moment, you may respectfully ask the judge for a break.

5. Any time you speak to the judge (when you are not on the witness stand) you should stand. This will help show that you respect the Court. 

You may want to make a plan for visitation before coming to Court. If you can give the Court a well thought out plan—what days and times you would like to have the child and how the exchanges would occur, for example—it is more likely that the Court will accept your plan. This is especially true if the opposing side does not have a plan. It will also help to show the Court that you have thought this matter out carefully and that you do not take this case lightly.



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Last Review and Update: Aug 05, 2014
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