What Are The Most Common Issues In Custody Cases That Lead To A Case Being Contested?
Custody cases typically begin contested because if someone’s filing for custody or visitation, something has usually gone wrong, or the other party is not cooperating. Typically, these cases are more difficult to settle, especially if accusations are up in the air. Common accusations may include abuse or neglect, domestic violence, drug or alcohol abuse, and more. If someone is seeking custody and has a strong allegation against the other parent, the Administration for Children Services will likely become involved. There will normally be an investigation, which will delay the case. The ACS could end up filing a case against you, which would take it out of the custody and visitation jurisdiction and into the child protective jurisdiction.
In Your Experience, What Are The Most Significant Reasons To Avoid Taking A Custody Matter Through The Entire Court Process, Including Trial?
There are many reasons to attempt to avoid trial. If it’s possible to settle a custody case, it’s almost always better to do so. For one thing, you don’t know what a judge or a referee is going to decide. So, you’re pretty much rolling the dice. You might think you have a very strong case. I may even think you have a very strong case if I’m your lawyer. However, the decision is always up to a judge or a referee and only comes after a trial, which can be a very long process. A trial can take a year, especially under the current conditions where Family Court is a partially virtual process. Family Court can also be expensive due to the time involved and the number of court appearances needed. Also, depending on the case, the court may appoint a forensic evaluator. A forensic evaluator is a psychologist, psychiatrist or social worker who will report on the case. A forensic evaluator may have to be paid for by both parties and may require multiple interviews, including interviews with the children involved. Thus, the process of forensic evaluation can take months, and sometimes even up to a year. Therefore, the forensic evaluation is another potential delay and another expense that may be incurred.
Additionally, if a case goes to trial, the children may have to be involved. Depending on their age, there may be an on-camera interview held where the judge interviews the children about the relevant issues in a closed session without the parents’ presence. An attorney for children will interview the children multiple times about the case. So, you’re almost assured of dragging the children into the case, which is rarely in the children’s best interest. However, there can be times when it is necessary for the safety and well-being of any children involved.
When you settle a case before going to trial, at least you know more of what to expect. Your children are not as involved and it’s usually a quicker process. Further, you’re not handing the decision over to a judge who may act against your interests.
If the other party is being very unreasonable or if there are severe allegations being made, then you may not want to settle. It’s best to discuss this decision with a professionally trained family custody lawyer.