How to Get Ready for an Upcoming Child Custody Trial in NJ
When contentious child custody conflicts head to court, an experienced family lawyer can provide pertinent information to protect your rights and help you prepare.
You and your ex have attended informal meetings with a third party to resolve your child custody dispute to no avail. You have also participated in court mediation to reach an agreement but failed. Since your ex filed papers with the court to resolve the dispute, you now face a trial. At trial, the judge will allow each of you to present your case for the custody arrangement that you propose is in your child’s best interest. But to convince the judge, you need to present evidence to support all that you assert as true at trial. For example, if you claim that your child is doing well in school when they are with you, you might introduce evidence of your child’s report cards. The family court judge is not going to take your word without proof. Thus, you need to take several steps to prepare for a child custody trial.
Hiring an Experienced Family Lawyer Becomes a Decisive Step To Help You Prove Your Case
Since you want to convince a judge that your argument is better, you must present an organized picture of your version of the situation with supporting evidence. As child custody trials can be lengthy and contentious, you want legal help and support. Hiring a family law attorney with trial experience is your first and one of your most critical steps in convincing the court during an often-contentious child custody dispute. Though you can prepare a case for a trial by yourself, you may find yourself at a disadvantage if your ex has a lawyer, and the opposite is also true.
At Bronzino Law Firm, our experienced New Jersey family lawyers have extensive experience and knowledge of the applicable laws, providing us with the know-how and tactical strategies to shape your evidence into a coherent, compelling picture that the family court judge can accept and weigh in their decision. We can also advise you about what not to do in preparation for a custody trial, like prompting your child to say or do things to hurt the other parent or otherwise publicly disrespecting your ex in person or on social media. Our team is prepared to examine your case and handle all of the necessary phases of the process to successfully resolve your child custody case and surrounding issues that may be in contention between you and your child’s other parent. Contact our offices in Brick and Sea Girt, NJ to speak with an attorney who can help in a free consultation.
Importance of Gathering Supporting Evidence for Your NJ Case
Our child custody lawyers can also help you prepare the necessary paperwork for trial and pre-trial requirements. You will need supporting evidence, which may include witnesses, police reports, criminal records, counseling reports, school documents, photos, videos, health records, financial records, and a proposed custody and visitation schedule. The court may require a brief or a pre-trial conference statement with this information. The court wants to know the witnesses you intend to bring to trial, including their names, relationship to you or your children, and the substance of their testimony. Your witnesses are those individuals who can bring relevant, convincing information that the court should consider in decision-making. For example, if your child has a daycare provider, their testimony may bear on the issue of behavior and social relationships. A school psychologist could testify to your child’s mental and emotional state if they have seen your child professionally at school.
Take a Step Ahead by Preparing Your Witnesses
Since your child’s other parent or their lawyer can cross-examine your witnesses, you and your attorney should prepare the questions for your witnesses and anticipate the questions your opponent will ask them to discredit or fluster them. Preparing your witnesses before trial is paramount. It allows your witnesses to know what you will ask them and enables you to understand how your witnesses will respond to your questions. Focus on what statements, stories, or observations you want each witness to bring to the court’s attention to support one or more of your assertions. So, if you’re going to show the court that your child suffers extreme anxiety when they visit the other parent, the school psychologist who met with your child on several occasions may report their observations and professional opinion about your child’s visitation fears.
To further prepare your witnesses, your lawyer will explain how the court conducts a trial and what they can expect. Since neither witnesses nor children are allowed in the courtroom except to testify, they must understand that they will wait for a call into the courtroom, including when they should arrive in court. Child custody trials can take a few days, so you can approximate when you need each witness by order of evidence presentation. The first day of a trial typically involves preliminary discussions about administrative and other issues with the judge. For example, a witness may have to appear out of order to accommodate their schedule. In addition, the judge must know about and approve changes or special proceedings.
Understanding What Happens at the NJ Court During the Trial Process
After preliminary procedural matters, the plaintiff begins the trial with their opening brief, laying out what they intend to prove and how. A court reporter transcribes every word spoken in open court. Then, they present evidence, including witnesses, who swear an oath, to tell the truth. The plaintiff may be the first witness. After the plaintiff’s lawyer asks their witness questions, called direct examination, the respondent’s attorney can cross-examine them. Cross-examination aims to question a witness’s memory, observation, or truthfulness regarding the facts and opinions. A cross-examination aims to extract damaging evidence of character or points that hurt your opponent’s case. Of course, the opposing lawyer will try to do the same with your witnesses. The court may allow redirect examination for a witness to clarify and rehabilitate their statements. Finally, the plaintiff gives their closing argument that summarizes the highlights of their case.
After the plaintiff finishes presenting their evidence, the respondent opens and closes their presentation the same way as the plaintiff. The entire trial may take a few days, but the court’s calendar dictates how long and when the hearing occurs. Often, three days of testimony occur over a month or more due to a crowded court calendar. Fortunately, you have time to prepare for a trial beforehand as courts ensure that several months elapse between the discovery cut-off date and the start of the trial. Discovery is one method of gathering evidence. You can assemble documents, like bank records from banks, or you can request your ex to provide them in a formal request for documents. Discovery responses are signed under oath and admissible at trial. Other forms of discovery exist to acquire additional evidence too. Both sides must complete discovery before the cut-off date preceding the trial. Once the trial is over, the judge pronounces their judgment at trial or within a specified time afterward, and each party has 45 days to appeal the decision.
Rely on the Experience of a Child Custody & Family Lawyer at Bronzino Law Firm when Preparing for a Child Custody Trial in Monmouth and Ocean County NJ
Since you have many deadlines to meet before which you must complete many critical legal and procedural tasks, you should talk to a child custody lawyer as soon as your custody issue arises, whether you are the plaintiff or the respondent. If you choose to hire Bronzino Law Firm, LLC, our dedicated lawyers not only prepare your paperwork, plan, and prepare with you and your witnesses for trial, but we can also steer you in the right direction all along the way. Especially with heated debates over what’s best for your child, your ex and their lawyer may aim to rattle you with emotionally charged accusations and insinuations about your parenting, your character, and your past. Our team offers support and takes the burden from your shoulders in fighting your custody battle.
Having a lawyer with a background handling custody trials and disputes can prove invaluable to your success at trial. Do not risk making irreparable mistakes with a devastating outcome by going alone. Contact our office to speak with a member of our team about your case; we serve clients in Jackson, Colts Neck, Toms River, Stafford, Sea Bright, Rumson, Point Pleasant, Lakehurst, and towns along the Jersey Shore.