Pointers and Tips
By: Caitlin Lievre
The most important thing to remember is that the main concern of court is to focus on the best interest of the child(ren). While that goes without saying, abusers are artists when it comes to manipulation and distraction in court. They will try to keep you from focusing on who the most important person in that courtroom is: your child(ren). Make that the top priority when writing court documents and when addressing the court.
Refrain from saying “my child” or “my children” when addressing the court. Always say “our child” or “our children” when referring to your child(ren) in the courtroom and at mediation.
Ignore and redirect your focus from the lies that the abuser tries to share in court. Arguing and focusing on proving the abuser wrong only gives the court the impression that you are more concerned with your abuser than your child.
Example: if the abuser brings up a lie about you specifically, and it is your turn to speak, you can politely address the court: “That ____ did not happen. Your Honor, I am concerned about how _____(your child’s name) is __________( address the neutral concern).”
An example of what not to do: “That is a lie. You have always been such a liar and you’re the one who ______, not me. I cannot believe you are trying to lie…”
This type of interaction within the courtroom irritates and distracts judges. They do not want to feel like they have to “babysit” so to reprimand both of you, they grant an order that is completely opposite of what you went in to request. They want to see that the child(ren) are being put first and that their best interests are being met by both parents.
It is always better to prepare yourself the night before. Find something that brings you back to center and keeps you from focusing on what your goal is in that courtroom. Some people where a necklace that they can hold onto, a bracelet they can touch, or some therapists recommend bringing a small tub of Play-Doh in your bag and keeping a small ball of it in your hand if needed.
When preparing what to wear for court, it is best to where something more neutral and calming, like a business meeting when going into court. Do not spend extra money or create stress by looking for a new outfit. Just ensure that you choose something that will be more suitable for the court environment.
When it comes to Requesting an Order in court, focus on the details that will concern your child(ren). For example, if you are requesting a change in custody schedule, refer to reasons why it is beneficial to your child(ren) and why it would be justifiable to change the schedule.
Everything that is requested and claimed in court must be justified. If your abuser tries to make claims or requests that are absurd, counter them with neutral, justifiable requests and changes.
While it is a natural instinct to want to protect your child(ren) from the abuser, if the court finds that the abuser can still have their rights to the child(ren), do not make your sole focus in court about taking the child(ren) away from the other parent. Make the focus about maintaining a healthy and loving environment in your home for your child(ren). If there are concerns about the other parent’s parenting, careful how it is worded in the court. Remain neutral and bring up the concern based on how it directly affects the child(ren).
Family court attorneys will try to “oversell” their services and charge for everything that they do. There is business in Family Court, so always make sure to ask for an invoice breakdown, because it will tell you everything that they are billing you for.
Creating a paper trail is always important. Document anything and everything concerning your child(ren), your ex, and the court. Keep notes during the court hearings and during mediation appointments. A binder with multiple copies of each document is always good to have, and it shows the court how serious and organized you are about the case.
If it is possible, request things like co-parenting classes, parenting classes, therapy, and communication programs (our family wizard, talking parents, etc.) during your RFO’s. Showing the Judge that you want to create a healthy and consistent household for the child(ren) is important. While co-parenting classes can be stressful and triggering, the concern is how you can find common ground for your child(ren) in the court’s eyes.
Please remember, that NOTHING will make sense in court. The law states one thing, and some outcomes can be the exact opposite.
Do not give up; if you remain hopeful and persevere to your child(ren), there will be better outcomes.