A custody battle may be one of the most difficult things you will ever have to endure. Following what may have been an emotional divorce, you may now have to engage with your former spouse in a dispute over who is the more fit parent for your children. While the very premise of it may be distasteful to you, it is possible that if you do not take careful steps to prepare for this hearing, you risk losing custody of your children.
A significant part of your case will involve documentation. This is proof, on paper, of the ways you and your spouse parent, for better or worse.
What documents do I need?
From the time of your separation from your spouse, you should gather any evidence of your spouse’s interaction — or missed opportunities for interaction — with your children. Keeping a journal of phone calls and visits is a common recommendation from legal advisors. Any of the following items will be excellent documentation for your custody hearing:
- On what dates and times did your spouse call your children?
- How long did they talk?
- What was the nature of the conversation?
- Did they Skype or communicate in other ways?
- How often did your spouse visit with the children?
- How long were the visits?
- What did they do together?
- How were the children after each visit?
You may also wish to include report cards or statements from teachers if they demonstrate a decline in your children’s performances following visits with their other parent. While documentation against your spouse may be critical to your case, don’t overlook statements from teachers, neighbors and others who can attest to your positive and healthy relationship with your children.
What should I do with the documents?
If you are initiating the custody proceedings, with your attorney’s help, you may be asked to follow these general steps:
- Prepare your written submission outlining what you are asking the court to order.
- Gather your supporting documents and organize them.
- Make several copies of each document.
- Send a copy of your submission and the supporting documents to the Texas family court and a second copy to your spouse.
If you are responding
If your spouse has initiated the custody proceedings, you should receive a copy of his or her submission and supporting documents. It is critical that you review these carefully with your attorney and gather any proof to refute the statements in the submission about which you disagree. You will then submit copies of your response and supporting documents to the court and to your spouse. You should bring copies of all your documents with you to the hearing.
Preparation is key
Custody matters can be stressful, and preparation is essential. Knowing what documents you need and what to do with them can help you approach the custody hearing more confidently.