Child custody cases determine legal and physical custody for minor children whose parents don’t live together. Some child custody cases are part of divorce proceedings, while other child custody cases involve parents who weren’t married or never lived together.
Child custody can significantly impact your ability to spend time with your minor child. It can also determine whether they can see grandparents and other extended relatives. If you’re preparing to launch a child custody case, there are some crucial steps you should take to protect your parental rights and your child.
Hire a family law attorney.
You’ll want to hire a local attorney, so if you’re in Louisiana you should Google “New Orleans child custody attorney” to find reputable family law attorneys in your area. Consulting an attorney about your case before hiring that attorney will ensure you’re comfortable with your lawyer and their legal strategy. A child custody lawyer will provide legal advice during every stage of your child custody case. Hire an attorney specializing in family law cases who has experience handling divorce and child custody cases. Family law attorneys are familiar with relevant case law they can use to build your case. They’ll ensure the filing requirements are met and give you the best chance of securing a favorable outcome. Your attorney can also take legal steps to ensure you receive child support and, if warranted, spousal support.
Family courts encourage parents to resolve their child custody agreement through mediation. Meditation enables you to secure an arrangement that considers your unique individual concerns, such as ensuring children can pursue extra-curricular activities or go on a family vacation each year. Your attorney can prepare you for mediation to ensure you can reach a suitable agreement. Suppose you’re unable to reach a child custody agreement during mediation. In that case, your attorney will prepare your case for trial, and a judge will consider the child’s best interests and issue a court order that determines legal and physical custody.
Keep records of relevant information.
Document any relevant information you can use to build your custody case. Your documentation can establish if the other parent has never assumed custody of your child and only phones or visits sporadically.
Keep records of other pertinent information, such as dates and times when the other parent didn’t show up for a scheduled visit, yelled at your child, or made disparaging remarks about you in front of your minor child. Ensure you keep records of all child-related expenses you incur and whether your former spouse or partner has paid you child support or contributed to the financial costs of raising a child, such as health insurance and child care costs.
Make notes about anything your child tells you that’s significant. If your child indicates their other parent leaves them with a babysitter and doesn’t spend time with them during their visits, you should note the date and time when your child told you that. You can use this type of information to argue for limited visitation for the other parent in the best interest of the child.
Inform caregivers and educators about the current status of your child’s custody.
Inform your babysitters, daycare providers, and school staff about your custody arrangement’s current legal status. Your child’s school cannot withhold them from their biological parent without a custody order. You must get official copies of every court order and provide a copy to your child’s school immediately. This includes temporary custody orders and protective orders.
Seek a protective order if you have safety concerns.
Your attorney can help you file for a protective order if you have concerns about your child’s safety. Your documentation should include photographs of bruises or other physical injuries you observe on your child when they return from the other parent’s care. Take notes about your observations and include the date and time. Discuss these concerns with your attorney. A temporary protective order prevents the other parent from having custodial access or visitation with the minor child. Temporary protective orders can also be used to establish temporary custody if you do not have a current court order.
Get help relocating.
You may need to relocate if you’re separating from your spouse or partner. Rent a storage unit to simplify the process of moving during the pandemic. You can box your possessions and secure them in storage until you find a new home to rent or buy. You can also opt to hire a moving company to transport your possessions to your new home or storage unit. You can also take advantage of a storage unit if you move to a smaller home and need time to determine which items to keep.
Fighting for child custody can be stressful and expensive. The best way to protect your legal parental rights is to hire a family law attorney with years of experience handling custody cases.