In the custody area the law is such that the courts have discretion to look at the facts of each case and hopefully make the best decision possible for a particular family. The legal standard the courts use to determine a custodial arrangement is what is the “best interests” of the child(ren). Law and public policy dictate and courts tend to promote frequent and continuing contact to both parents. Courts often chose to maintain the status quo. In determining what is in the best interests of the child(ren), the courts will consider, among other factors, the child’s health, safety and general welfare, when making a decision about custody. While it is generally best for parents to resolve the custody issues without litigation or court innvolvement, this is not always possible. After filing for a dissolution, or paternity case, if there are custody issues and a pending court hearing, the court will order the parties to attend an appointment at family court services (FCS), also referred to as mediation. There the parents will meet with an experienced person that will try to help them mediate a parenting plan that is in the best interests of the children. If a parenting plan cannot be agreed to a report will be prepared that states each parties position. The report will also contain a recommendation and will be sent to the judge that is assigned to the case for their review before making any court orders regarding the custody of the child(ren). At the court hearing the judge will review the recommendation, the parties declarations, witness declarations if appropriate, and hear argument from counsel. At times testimony may be required.
When meeting with Stephen N. Falletta about custody issues please be prepared to discuss all issues surrounding the parenting of the child or children, possibly including but not limited to:
- Childrens names and birth dates
- Each parents historic responsibility regarding the day to day care of the child,
- The child’s previous living history, education and other special needs,
- Where and with whom the child has lived for the past 5 years
See: Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction And Enforcement Act (UCCJEA)
- Whether there have been any previous custody matters relating to a particular child,
- School records
- Information about CPS contacts, if any,
- Parental information including education, use of illicit drugs/alcohol/abuse
- Child’s preference (not always relevant)
A word of advice: Court’s look with disfavor on parents that involve their children in custody disputes as this type of behavior is not healthy for children, and with favor on parents that attempt to encourage contact and warm and loving relationships with the other parent. Beware of exchanging nasty emails or letters, or leaving mean spirited voice mails as your spouse will be sure to want the court to read/hear them and see what a bad person you are. So when communicating with your spouse do so with the notion that the court is always listening and temper your comments accordingly.