For parents who are in the middle of a child custody dispute, it can be an emotional experience. Philadelphians should be aware of the basics of a case as it moves forward. As always, the relationship with children is paramount and protecting them is key. There are certain aspects to bear in mind when preparing for a hearing. It might be necessary to give testimony, provide evidence, call witnesses, and have tests and evaluations conducted to determine what the best interests of the child are and gauge whether the parents are suited to have custody and visitation.
With testimony, the parties will give their side of the story and ask the other parent questions. An argument could be made as to why one parent should be granted custody over the other. Part of being prepared is to have all relevant questions written down. Evidence is necessary to prove the points given in testimony. This can include medical information, school records, documents and photos. Each parent has the right to see the evidence that the other parent is bringing. Two copies should be made of every piece of evidence - one for the court and one for the parent giving the evidence.
Witnesses are beneficial to the case, as they can testify as to the importance of the parent's relationship with the child and why custody should be given to that parent. A subpoena must be presented to be admitted. These subpoenas are color coded, with blue meaning the witness is "friendly" and red meaning the witness is someone who might prefer not to testify but are there because they have been ordered to appear. Witnesses can testify to events they have seen personally and nothing else. It is possible for the witness to testify over the phone if they cannot appear.
Tests and evaluations could be necessary if there is a belief that one of the parents is abusing drugs, one of the parents has mental health issues, or if the home is found to be otherwise not safe. Drug tests, mental health evaluations, and a home investigation can be requested. The court will want to know the justification for these orders. Considering the difficult nature of a child custody dispute, preparation is essential. Having a lawyer who is skilled and experienced with child custody is imperative and can help with a case.
Source: courts.phila.gov, "Child Custody In Philadelphia County," accessed on April 11, 2017