The Original Custody Agreement
No matter how amicable your relationship with your ex, don’t get overly comfortable and lose track of your custody agreement. This document outlines what each of you can expect in terms of custody as well as what will be required of each of you.
Whether you eventually seek a modification of the order or defend against its modification you will need the original. It will help your attorney prepare your case. This is especially important if he/she didn’t represent you during the original custody hearings. If you’ve misplaced your copy, contact the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts, or relevant court in the county where you finalized the agreement.
Proof of Compliance
Next, you will likely need to prove that you complied with the orders. One way to do this by producing written evidence in the form of text messages, email correspondence, letters, etc.
If you find yourself unexpectedly challenged with regard to custody, you might not have those items handy. That’s why it’s important to begin gathering that evidence before you find yourself back in court. To the extent you can, communicate with your ex via text message or email about things like meeting to drop off or pick up your children.
If you make arrangements with your ex in person or by phone, follow up via text or email so that you have written documentation. Should you both agree to alter the custody orders, perhaps for a holiday or other special occasion, confirm those changes in writing.
Finally, make sure you back everything up. Email and text messages can often be saved to the cloud, so if your phone or computer breaks or is lost or stolen, you still have access to that data. A blog post on FindLaw.com suggested not only backing up text messages but ensuring you have a way of authenticating them for the court. You need to be able to prove they were sent and received as you indicate. You can do this a number of ways, such as by having witnesses testify to their authenticity and by showing the context of the text messages as part of a string of communications. Your attorney can offer you advice as to how to ensure the electronic communications can be authenticated.
Evidence of your Children’s Well-Being
At the end of the day, child custody arrangements are not about you and your ex; they’re about the well-being of your children. A court needs evidence that your children are not suffering from any neglect as a result of the current arrangements — or the disagreement you are having with your ex — and will not be negatively impacted in the future.
You should bring medical records showing that under your care, the children remain healthy and that your pediatrician has no concerns. School records also help. Good grades and an absence of disciplinary problems may indicate a well-adjusted child. The comments that teachers make on report cards can also provide insight into how successful your children are in school.
According to family lawyer Debrina Washington, writing for Very Well Family, another key factor in your children’s well-being is your living arrangements. While courts will take into account your specific circumstances, they consider many factors. These could include the number and ages of your children; the specific amenities your home offers; safety and security; and how well your children can adjust to their living environment are all up for consideration.
Very Well Family published another article in 2018, saying that active involvement in your children’s upbringing, taking part in their school and extracurricular activities and otherwise fostering a loving, nurturing relationship with your children all demonstrate a positive living environment.
Preparing for a court visit can be stressful, especially when it comes to child custody. Following these recommendations as well as the advice of your attorney can help increase your chances of a happy outcome.
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