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Child custody cases are some of the most difficult seen in court. They can go on for a long time, and sometimes be a bit unpredictable.
If you are getting ready to be put on the stand for a child custody case, it can be a good idea to look at some possible questions so you can be prepared for what the judge will ask. While the exact questions will differ from case to case, it is still a good idea to have a general idea of what is coming.
In this article, you’ll find some of the questions a judge might ask in a custody case so you can be prepared on your day in court.
Questions That Establish the Child’s Routine
In a child custody case, it is the Judge’s job to put the child in a situation that will disrupt their routine the least. While this isn’t always an option in cases of neglect or abuse, a judge will likely ask some of the following questions to establish how the child goes about their daily life.
- When does the child eat each meal of the day?
- Where does the child eat their meals?
- Who prepares the meals for the child?
- Who does your child eat meals with?
- How does your child get to school?
- Which school does your child attend?
- When does your child do homework?
- Who helps the child with the homework?
- What does your child do after school?
- Who volunteers at the child’s school when necessary?
- Who takes the child to extracurricular activities?
As you can see, most of these questions are just about your child’s routine. Whether you are seeking custody or not, always answer these questions with honesty and as much detail as you can provide. Remember, the judge wants to do what is best for your child.
Questions About The Adult’s Routines
Child custody cases are more than just deciding what is best for the child, but also which adult will do better in the child’s life to become the primary caregiver. In most cases, the following questions will be asked to both potential parents.
- What time do you go to work each morning?
- What time do you return from work in the evening?
- How far is your workplace from home?
- How far is your workplace from the child’s school?
- Are your working hours flexible?
- Are you able to leave work in an emergency?
- Do you work overtime? (How much overtime do you work?)
- Do you work weekends?
- Who will care for your child if they cannot attend school for a day?
Most of these questions should be easy to answer. If you don’t currently have a backup plan for what happens to your kid when you are working, it is a good idea to come up with this plan before your hearing, even if it is something simple like calling your parents, in-laws, or even the other parent.
Child Knowledge Questions
Sometimes, child custody cases can get messy, and people can lie. In these cases, the judge will likely ask some questions that are not likely to be known by the non caregiver parent. These questions can help the judge deduce who is truly the current primary caregiver.
- What size clothes does your child wear?
- What size shoes does your child wear?
- Who is your child’s best friend?
- What are your child’s favorite activities?
- What is your child’s favorite food?
- What subject does your child do well in at school?
- What subject does your child struggle with?
- What is your child’s favorite tv show?
- What does your child want to be when they grow up?
- What is your child’s favorite park?
As you can see, you really need to know your child’s likes and dislikes to answer these questions. Also, don’t be surprised if the judge asks more in-depth questions based on your answers.
Questions for Other Family Members
As mentioned above, a couple in the middle of a custody dispute isn’t always cordial, and sometimes parents can lie to try to get custody of the children. Judges know this, so they will likely interview other family members to get their input on the custody dispute.
- Has the child said anything concerning about their mother or father?
- Does the child express negative emotions while discussing their father/mother?
- Who picks up the child from your home?
- With whom does the child spend more time?
- What is the child’s favorite food?
The judge may also use the friends and family members to verify any answers you have given. During this part of the proceedings, it’s important to not lose your temper. Remember, the judge is watching to see how you will handle difficult situations. It can be difficult, but whenever they say something you don’t agree with, try to let it go and think of your child instead.
What Happens at a Family Law Trial?
It’s difficult to provide information on what happens at a family law trial because every case is different. In some divorces, it’s easy to split the assets but difficult to decide where the children will live. In others, it might be difficult to decide on both. Sometimes couples are cordial to each other, and other times there is a lot of emotion involved in the divorce that can make a trial difficult on either side.
A contested divorce occurs when the parties cannot agree cordially, and this is when the judge will come into the decision. You will be asked to present your parenting plan to the judge.
Your parenting plan should include:
- How you will both work and provide for your child
- Information on how the child will be brought to different activities and locations
- When your ex will get to see the child
- What child support payments you want to be provided.
Once you have presented your case, the judge will question both you and your ex to see which parenting plan is better for the child. They may also question your child if they are old enough, as well as friends, teachers, parents, and other relatives.
After this, an attorney may produce other evidence on either side. This can be mental health evaluations, financial evaluations, or any other documents they feel the judge should consider when making their decision.
After all the evidence has been presented, the judge will make their decision which will become a court order. It’s important to know that this decision may not be instant and that family court cases can take a long time, even years in some cases. It is in your best interest to try to solve things cordially with your ex before taking them to court.
In extreme cases, where it takes years to come to a custody deliberation and resolution, your children may be placed in foster care for the duration of the court case. This can be damaging to all parties involved and can cause more harm to your children than good. Always try to figure things out with your ex out of court first (but with an attorney present) and only take dire situations where the child’s safety is in danger to court.
Who Else Will Be Questioned?
Besides questioning both parents of the child, the judge will also likely want to speak to some other witnesses. These witnesses could include neighbors of either parent, teachers, or even friends of the parent. Sometimes coaches, doctors, and other people in your child’s life can also be called upon to give information in a custody case.
If you aren’t an attorney or lawyer yourself, it’s a good idea to contact one to help you prepare for your child custody case. Of course, while you can appear without representation, it isn’t recommended, however, because child custody cases can be tricky. Especially if your ex plans to call their friends and family to the stand, and they may be prepared to speak against you.
Do You Get to Choose Your Own Witnesses?
Whether or not you have a lawyer, you will generally get to choose the witnesses who are brought to the stand in a child custody case. This is because your attorney will ask you for a list of people you think will be willing to speak on your behalf.
When you give your attorney a list of people to subpoena, it’s important to only list people who know either your child or you well. Calling a friend who met your child once won’t look good on the stand or help your case. Also, keep in mind who your ex may call to plead their case. You will want to have similar witnesses but on your behalf.
For example, you may know that your ex plans to call two of their friends, their parents, and the child’s teacher. You will then want to find two friends of your own (if possible) as well as have your own parents come to the stand. While your child may only have one teacher, see if a coach or another adult who works with your child regularly will be willing to appear on your behalf. Don’t forget that clergy members can also make great character witnesses.
Reference Legal Explanations
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"Character Witness Questions for Child Custody". Legal Explanations. Accessed on September 23, 2023. https://legal-explanations.com/blog/character-witness-questions-for-child-custody/.
"Character Witness Questions for Child Custody". Legal Explanations, https://legal-explanations.com/blog/character-witness-questions-for-child-custody/. Accessed 23 September, 2023
Character Witness Questions for Child Custody. Legal Explanations. Retrieved from https://legal-explanations.com/blog/character-witness-questions-for-child-custody/.