If you are looking for answers to a common child custody question, “What happens at first custody hearing?” you might come across a variety of answers.
Some information might lead you to believe that nothing vital will happen, while other information might try to scare you with threats of your children being taken away. The truth about what happens at these hearings, though, lies in the middle.
Let’s take a closer look at how the child custody legal process typically plays out in Texas.
The Role of the First Child Custody Hearing
In most cases, your first child custody hearing will not be the only hearing in the process. But the first hearing is still important, even if a final decision is not made during this stage.
At this hearing, the court can enter temporary orders that say where your child should live and when each parent gets to see your child. These orders can then become permanent later on at future hearings.
As a result, you will want to prepare for this first child custody hearing to position yourself for the best possible outcome. Preparing can also help reduce any nerves you may be feeling about this upcoming court date.
The Best Interest of the Child is the Central Issue
The court’s focus during the first hearing and every other custody hearing will be on your child’s best interests. While the court will consider what you want to happen, this is not as important in the court’s eyes as what it thinks is right for your child.
As you prepare for your hearing, make sure that what you are asking the court to do is what is truly in your child’s best interests and not just what you want.
Preparing for Your Initial Child Custody Hearing
Your initial child custody hearing is typically scheduled because one of two things happened:
- You or the other parent filed for divorce.
- You asked the court for custody orders if you were not married to the parent of your child.
No matter how your case gets started, how you prepare for what happens at first custody hearings is the same. We recommend carefully considering how to prepare for trial.
Get Ready to Go to Court
In most cases, you will need to appear in person in court when your hearing is set. Before your hearing date, make sure you know where the court is located and where to go once you arrive.
Notice how long it takes you to get to court so you can give yourself an ample amount of time on the hearing day. Plan ahead for your court date to ensure you’re not rushing around the day of your hearing.
Turn in a Parenting Plan
If you have not done so already, write out a parenting plan and give it to your attorney. Parenting plans tell the court your requests for child custody and visitation arrangements. They should cover not only ordinary times in the year but also birthdays, summer vacations, and special events like Christmas and Mother’s Day.
Where your child will reside and when the other parent can visit with them is called “physical custody.” Often, a court will give both parents the right to have a say in important decisions about their child. This is known as “legal custody.”
You should specify what legal custody arrangement you want, especially if you are planning to argue that only you should be allowed to make decisions about your child’s upbringing.
Gather Your Thoughts and Evidence
Preparing for child custody hearings is an important step in a child custody case. You will be asked about your parenting plan, and your attorney or the court may ask you to explain why your plan should be followed when determining custody.
Think of your answers ahead of time, and remember to tie them back to what is in your child’s best interests. If you need help, ask your Texas family law attorney.
If you have evidence the court should look at, gather it together now. The sort of evidence that has the most impact on a court includes reports about your child from school or therapists and financial documents showing that you can provide for your child at your home.
If abuse or neglect occurred, police reports or other evidence of it can be helpful, too, during child custody proceedings.
What Will a Court Do at Your First Custody Hearing?
Once you are in court, the judge will look at your parenting plan and other evidence you give them. You may be asked about your plan, and the other parent may be asked questions about theirs. The court may also hear from other people, like friends, family members, and school officials before making a custody decision.
The hearing can last anywhere from an hour to several hours. At the end of the hearing, the court may ask for more time to evaluate the situation. Or, they might be ready to make a decision that includes orders for the following information:
- Who your child will live with primarily
- The visitation schedule for the other parent
- Geographic constraints related to where parents live
- How much child support the non-custodial parent should pay to the custodial parent
- Whether the orders are temporary or final
- Future court hearings that will be held, if applicable
Once your hearing is over, the court orders should be finalized. Make sure you follow these orders as outlined by the judge. If you do not, you could be found in contempt, and the court could revise its orders to reduce your parental rights.
What Happens at First Custody Hearing: Find Support from a Family Law Attorney
If you are worried about what happens at first custody hearing situations, hiring an experienced child custody lawyer can help you navigate child custody laws in Texas.
Our team of helpful and knowledgeable family law attorneys can provide you with clear steps for your specific situation, prepare you for court, and advise you on what to do once the court decides on the custody arrangement.
We currently support parents in Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, Galveston County, and Matagorda County. If you live in one of these counties, contact our offices to discuss your child custody matter.
You can reach us at 979-267-7660 (Angleton office) or 281-944-5485 (Sugar Land office) to speak with an attorney who cares. Learn more about how we can help you on the path to achieving the best outcome for you and your family.