How to Prepare for a New York Child Custody Case
New York child custody cases can, understandably, be quite emotional. Most parents want their children to have the best, healthiest, and happiest lives possible and are only at odds when they and their ex disagree over how to provide such lives. While coming to a custody agreement out of court is generally preferable, there are plenty of circumstances in which litigation becomes necessary.
Courts in New York consider many factors when making determinations about child custody—availability and ability of each parent to care for the child, the condition of home environments, the impact/disruption an arrangement would have on the child’s life, etc.—but the guiding principle is to protect the child’s best interests first and foremost.
Keeping that in mind, it’s important to prepare carefully for your custody case, taking the following steps to establish yourself as a capable and reasonable parent:
- Make sure your home is safe – Indeed, the quality of your home will be evaluated for its safety and overall fitness as an environment for a child to live in. In addition to incorporating all the proper protections against hazards and weapons, it’s important to provide your child with his or her own place to sleep and keep belongings. Show that community spaces are laid out with the child in thought, and that he or she has a designated area to complete homework or engage in other enriching activities.
- Be proactive – Keep records, such as a journal, of you and your child’s activities while you are together and how he or she responds to your general schedule. What are your weekdays like? Try to provide a reliable schedule that includes an adequate night’s sleep, relaxed time to eat breakfast before school, regular dinnertime, ample time to do schoolwork (if your child is old enough), and a consistent bedtime.
- Understand New York child custody laws – You should have realistic expectations going into your custody hearing. As much as you may want your child to yourself, remember that the law favors arrangements that facilitate healthy relationships between the child and each parent, and most of the time some sort of shared parenting plan is the result. Prepare for your case with guidance from a trustworthy lawyer, so you aren’t caught by surprise.
- Dress and behave appropriately – It’s important to arrive for your case in proper, respectful courtroom attire. In general, conservative formal business wear, such as a suit with a tie, a pantsuit, or a dress/skirt and blouse with hose are all good choices when paired with appropriate footwear. But even more important than your appearance is your behavior. Review courtroom etiquette with your attorney, and always avoid speaking out of turn or having emotional outbursts.
- Bring proper documentation – Certain official documents are essential in a custody case, such as a copy of the initial filing and a written statement of your requests. Your attorney can help you compile these. Additionally, maintaining records of the ways you care for your child is crucial. Beyond such a log or journal, bring to court documents such as school reports and teacher correspondence, doctors’ bills from visits, and any other relevant formal documentation. Furthermore, you can request letters of recommendation from people close to your child (babysitters, teachers, mentors, coaches, etc.) who can attest to your commitment and presence in your child’s life.
You may feel nervous or anxious as you begin litigation in your NYC child custody trial, but with a qualified attorney by your side, you have the best chance at the outcome you want.
Choose a supportive New York child custody lawyer who gets results
A knowledgeable NYC child custody attorney is an invaluable resource throughout your custody case. With more than 30 years in practice helping families and advocating for children’s best interests, the Law Office of Vivien I. Stark, P.C., has the experience you need to obtain a desirable custody arrangement. To learn more about how we can help, contact us online today or call (212) 349-1600 to schedule a consultation.