In our last post, we began looking at some of the factors courts consider when making decisions about parenting time in child custody proceedings. In addition to these specific factors, courts are also bound to consider the parties involved when awarding primary physical custody, and whether any presumptions apply.
When child custody proceedings involve either two parents or two third parties, courts are not bound by any presumptions regarding best interests. In other words, parents are both supposed to be on equal footing when it comes to weighing best interest factors for purposes of awarding primary physical custody. By contrast, when the dispute involves a parent and a third party, courts are bound by state law to presume that the parent should be awarded custody. This presumption may be rebutted, though, by providing clear and convincing evidence that awarding custody to the third party would be in the best interests of the child.
For parents, the fact that the court is primarily concerned about the best interests of the child in custody proceedings does not negate the importance of working with an experienced advocate. There are at least several important ways an attorney will advocate for a parent in child custody proceedings.
1. Make sure the judge has all the facts
First of all, a family law attorney will help ensure that the judge has sufficient and accurate information at his or her disposal for purposes of making custody decisions. If only one party was responsible for providing the judge the information he or she needs to make a well-informed decision, this would not be fair for the parent who was not able to provide input. It is especially important to clear up any falsities or inaccuracies when one parent makes false accusations against the other or attempts to paint the other parent in a false light. It is also important for a parent to ensure the court has access to facts regarding the other parent which affect the best interest of the child, and of which the court is, for some reason, not aware.
In our next post, we’ll look at a couple other ways an experienced attorney can provide crucial advocacy in child custody proceedings.