Who Decides Custody if We Go to Court?
We’ll start by talking about who decides custody when you go to trial. That’s going to be your judge.
When you file your lawsuit in North Carolina, you’re going to get a judicial assignment. And that’s going to show you who your judge is. We also operate in North Carolina under this idea of one family, one Judge. That means that the Judge that hears your first matter on child custody, or any of your other divorce related matters–child support or alimony–is your assigned Judge. That Judge is going to hear everything that you need to litigate regarding your divorce or your children from here on out.
Barring unforeseen circumstances, you can anticipate that that Judge who you’re assigned to is going to be the Judge who is in control of everything that you’re going to litigate related to your divorce or your children – from here into perpetuity.
This has been official for several reasons. First, you’re not going to have any inconsistency if you’re going in front of a different Judge every time. And different Judges think certain things are important. You would be left with having these inconsistent decisions, and you would really never know what to expect.
Also, this allows the Judges to become familiar with your case. While they may not remember every single thing from your previous hearing, they’re going to be able to go back to their notes, it’s going to jog their memory. They’re going to have some familiarity with you and your spouse and your child or children, which is going to help them make the best decision for the kid.
Because you know you’re always going to have the same Judge, you always want to make sure that you’re doing your best to be on good terms with your Judge. We’re going to talk about that a little bit more when we get into how to prepare for trial. But you want to, at a minimum, make sure that you’re trying to stay on good terms with that Judge because your Judge is going to be important for years to come.
Preparing for Your Time in Court
There’re several things that you need to do to prepare for court. My first bit of advice for preparing for court is to trust your attorney. Your attorney can draw on a wealth of knowledge. Your attorney has been in front of your Judge several times, if not hundreds of times.
You need to be able to trust your attorney’s opinion, trust your attorney’s knowledge that he or she is drawing on–in order to counsel you best on what to expect. That’s your first step–put a lot of trust in your attorney. That’s what you’ve hired that person for, and they’re going to be able to walk you through the process.
You also want to make sure you’re asking your attorney lots of questions. You don’t want to feel like any question is a dumb question. You don’t want to show up in court and be completely confused as to why your spouse gets to testify first, or anything that could happen throughout the process. You want to make sure that you’re completely aware, and fully aware of what to expect.
Another way you can prepare for court is to put your best foot forward with that Judge. You want to be on your best behavior. It’s certainly not going to go against you if you present yourself professionally, if you have a certain courtroom decorum. You want to dress professionally. You don’t want to be speaking outside of turn. You don’t want to be speaking from the table when someone’s at the stand. You don’t want to interrupt the Judge. You never want to become inflamed. These are things that you have control over.
The more prepared you are for court, and the more professional, calm, cool and collected you can stay–the better you’ll come across in the eyes of your Judge.