Present the Judge with Your Best Evidence
Today is your day in court. How is that going to look? What are we going to tell the Judge, and how do we present our evidence?
The easiest way to present evidence, and the most common way to present evidence is going to be through testimony. You’re going to testify, the other parent’s going to testify, and then each of the attorney’s is also going to have the ability to cross examine each of you. You’ll be able to get your testimony out, whether the other parent is represented. Either the other parent or their attorney is going to have the ability to cross examine you. And the same goes for you. Either your attorney or you will also have the ability to cross examine that other person as well.
You’ll also have witness testimony. That could be anybody that you think is going to help your case. I will tell you that the most important witnesses to the Judges are going to be independent, objective, third party witnesses. Not your best friend or family member, who the Judge can sense is a biased person.
These independent witnesses can have a lot of impact on custody cases. Somebody like the Sunday school teacher, or the neighbor–not the neighbor who’s your best friend–the neighbor who just sees you outside all the time: playing with the child, interacting with the child. Someone who has seen positive interactions between you and the child at neighborhood functions.
Coaches. If the coach can take the stand and say, “Yes, mom has the child to practice every day, 10 minutes early. The child never has forgotten any of the equipment. Mom stays and watches the practice. Mom stays afterwards and talks to me about how the child is interacting with the other children, and the progress. And whether the divorce is impacting the child.” These are kind of things, anything positive that an independent third party witness who’s completely objective about your custody battle – those witnesses are going to be the most important. That testimony’s going to be very compelling to the Judge.
You’ll also present evidence by way of photos and videos. An example of this is, say we have a custody dispute over an infant and the person who has moved out of the house that you previously shared needs to show the court: “I am prepared to have some overnights. I have a crib. I have formula. I have a car seat, I have a stroller.” You may just take pictures of these things, and submit those into evidence. That shows that you have the ability to care for the child.
Other types of evidence that we see a lot are calendars. If there’s been an issue where one parent maybe thinks he or she should have 50% custody, but in reality over the last 6 months, they’ve only had custody 20% of the time. Show the Judge that calendar marked with the overnights that the other parent has had, and showing that it’s not as many as he or she thinks it has been. That can be something that you can introduce into evidence.
We see people introduce text messages and emails as well. If they matter in your case, there’s certain authentication standards. Your attorney will help, will talk you through. You can also introduce text messages and emails as well.
One other type of testimony that can kind of enter your custody hearing is going to be expert testimony. Sometimes what we will do in cases, is we’ll subpoena a mental health professional. Perhaps your child has been seeing a counselor or a therapist throughout this process. The Judge wants to know what that person thinks and what that person has to say about the transition for the child.
The Judge wants background information before he or she is going to make a decision on child custody. Sometimes you can have expert testimony, and that’s usually in the form of a mental health professional, like a therapist or a counselor.