At the beginning of a child custody case, it can seem pretty daunting to contact an attorney to discuss the things that have been going on in your life and the lives of your children over the last few years. There are a few ways to prepare for a child custody attorney consultation, and the most important thing about it is to consider what it is that you want the outcome to be. It’s a difficult decision for all of the parents in a case involving minor children because so much goes into figuring out what is in their best interests and how things would work after the paperwork is signed and the case has no pending date with a judge. Here are some things to consider before speaking with an attorney you would like to assist you on a case:
1. What are your goals and preferences for parenting time and decision-making responsibilities?
If you and your ex are both involved parents who exercise sound judgment when making parenting decisions and if you get along reasonably well enough to make decisions that will serve your children’s best interests, then you may want to consider a liberal and frequent parenting time schedule that lets the kids see each of you regularly.
On the other end of the spectrum, if there’s a history of abuse (emotional, mental, or physical), your history with the other parent, will be definitely something to discuss with the attorney so that they can do whatever is necessary to protect you and the children from any possible future abuse.
2. What are the current parenting time and decision-making agreements and disputes?
If you and your co-parent have a customary or previously-agreed to parenting time schedule, and that schedule is going well and the child is adjusted to it, that is something to inform your attorney about. As the old adage goes – “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.” If there is a custom that is definitely not working, that is also something to discuss with your attorney – for example, if the other parent consistently needs to reschedule or bail on their agreed-to parenting time, that is something you can explain to the Court and have the Court enter an order reflecting a diminished schedule that that parent will foreseeably be able to exercise.
If you and your co-parent get along with respect to parenting time, but not decision-making on things like your kids’ schools or doctors, or medications, that is an issue to discuss with an attorney. Do your best to reflect the other parent’s perspectives on the issues with a neutral perspective so that the attorney can make sure to address both of your concerns and to offer helpful and solution-focused advice.
3. What is your child’s relationship like with each parent?
Another point of discussion I would mention when you are speaking with your attorney is whether the child is particularly close to one parent versus the other parent. Usually, children will have a bond with both of their parents but will be significantly closer to one parent than the other. That is totally fine, as long as it’s not the product of undue pressure or alienation by the other parent. If the other parent spends no time – by choice – with your kids, that is something to discuss with the attorney. The Court will usually and customarily allocate a great share of time and responsibilities to the parent who actually wants those responsibilities and who has customarily been the parent who is closer to the children.
4. Are there any urgent issues or safety concerns?
If there are any aspects of your parenting time and responsibilities with the other parent that the Court should know about and quickly address, that is something to feature at the beginning of the conversation with an attorney. Specifically, if your child would be in danger of abuse, whether it be emotional, physical, or mental, were the other parent to be allocated unfettered or unsupervised time with the children, that is something to mention and discuss with your attorney, in addition to all of the evidence you can present to the Court to inform them about that issue.
The right child custody lawyer will prioritize your goals and preferences for the co-parenting issues in the case and will listen to your concerns and offer guidance about the best way of proceeding. An experienced attorney will weigh any evidence you have about the other parent or your own parenting, and then tell you about what you can expect when you go to a family court and ask for a ruling in your favor or bending in favor of your requests. The key to a great attorney-client relationship is working together to create solutions (instead of problems) for you, and hopefully, your children.