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We at the Witches' Voice are continually compiling a important reference documents, form letters that you can use in your local fight for YOUR freedom... Note: The Witches' Voice Inc. does not offer legal advice nor are we qualified to do so. This document does not constitute legal advice but is intended to be used in conjunction with the legal services of an attorney licensed to practice in your state. This document can be copied and distributed to your lawyer should you decide that you need the services of one.
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What Do Courts Look For?|
What Do Courts Look For In Determining Child Custody?|
Everything. And it starts right from the beginning at the initial filing for divorce.
One of you-or both of you-want a divorce. You are now entering the legal system. It's not like in the movies. You are not a spectator. This is YOUR life.
One (or both) of the parties in the suit for divorce will file what is called a "complaint" or "petition." Here you will list your personal information, marital assets or any other joint property. You will be asked about the children, your job and many other things. This is where you officially state, "I want a divorce!" Your lawyer will file this with the Court Clerk in your area where you thereafter will become another number in the court files. This first document is also where you often find out that your once-loving spouse plans to do a number on you.
In this original complaint, (which you will see here is very aptly named!), anyone can claim anything about the other person that they want to be considered by the court. They don't even have to prove that it is true. Yet. That will come later if need be. They have signed a statement that this is what they "believe to be true to the best of their knowledge."
Since this can be a very nasty piece of "venting", you may find yourself being called an "unfit parent", a 'child abuser" or a "devil worshipper". To add insult to injury, you are usually served with this little bonus by a sheriff or other legal officer of the court. This can come to your home or to your office. Some nice people will let the other party pick up the documents at their lawyer's office to avoid embarrassment. (There are very few "nice" people.)
This is where most people panic. This is where most people start throwing things. This is where most parents get very, very scared.
After you pick up all the broken vases, have your lawyer file what is called an "answer" to the complaint. This is just what it sounds like-an answer to all the charges and allegations and demands that ruined your day. This is where you say, "That is not true!" You get to tell your side of the story. (Go ahead. Throw another vase. I'll wait.)
Your lawyer will take it from here. There will probably be a temporary hearing scheduled with the court soon after all the papers have been passed back and forth. This establishes what can be agreed on right then and there and what is in dispute. Hopefully, this is as far as that "devil worshipper" thing goes. Often it is, IF you and your lawyer have answered this part of the complaint in a way that satisfies the judge.
In these days, you usually no longer have to prove that it is the other person that is at "fault"-though you'd never guess that based on the terrible things said about you in that complaint!- to obtain a divorce. But realistically, that temptation to take a shot at you is sometimes just too strong to deny.
The point is that divorce and child custody issues do not HAVE to be nasty. They often are because someone just WANTS to play dirty. The lawyers get paid by the hour. They'll listen as long as you want to rant...and the bill will be in the mail tomorrow.
You should also be prepared to prove yourself a model citizen and parent right then and there, too. Because this information will be used later to help determine child custody.
Each state has its own little list of criteria for determining certain "points" that they use to rate each parent. The more points you get, the better the chances are that you will retain custody. Some of these points may include any or all of the following:
- The love, affection, and other ties existing between the parties involved and the child.
- The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to give the child love, affection, and guidance and continuation of the educating and raising of the child in its religion or creed, if any. (Don't panic here. If the child is comfortable with your religious beliefs, this will be taken under consideration.)
- The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care or other remedial care recognized and permitted under the laws of this State in place of medical care, and other material needs.
- The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment, and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
- The permanence as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home or homes.
- The moral fitness of the parties involved.
- The mental and physical health of the parties involved.
- The home, school, and community record of the child.
- The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient age to express preference. (NOTE: The LEGAL right for a child to state a preference does not exist. That's LEGALLY. Judges though will often hear the testimony of a mature child on placement, but will not consider this a major factor in a decision.)
- The willingness and ability of each of the parents to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent. (Note: This is where all that previous nasty venting can be used against one party or the other. Pays to be as nice as you can stomach. Fake it, if you have to. Bite your tongue. You want your kids. It's worth it.)
- Domestic violence, regardless of whether the violence was directed against, or witnessed by the child.
- Any other factor considered by the court to be relevant to a particular child custody dispute.
These points help to determine what arrangement is in the "best interest of the child." That is the absolute bottom line in determining custody. Sounds simple. It almost always never is. But at least now, you may feel a little bit more prepared.
- Some Other Really Little Things That Can Make You Look Like A Good Parent, But That You May Forget To Mention:
- You go to parent-teacher meetings and you actually remember the name of your child's teacher(s).
- You have a family membership in a health club, civic center or similar organization or you coach/chaperone/sponsor your child's sports/ activity team.
- You subscribe to parenting magazines.
- Your home is clean.
- Your child always knows how to contact you.
- You are the one who always takes your child to the doctor, dentist, etc.
- You do charity work.
- You actually enjoy spending time with your child. Yeah, that seems obvious, but mention it anyway. Remember, that divorce is a traumatic event for everyone. Your child needs to hear that you love him/her over and over again. The nice thing is-they will usually say it back to you.
- And you haven't thrown a single vase for several months now.
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