Winning a child custody case requires strategy, preparation, preparation, and preparation. Did I mention preparation? A child custody fight is like walking into any battle, you need three things: a goal, a plan, and a strategy as to how your plan will be executed. Being prepared in for this battle may be the most important thing you do in your life. This preparation is easily accomplished if you stay organized and follow these steps.
The goal. You need to set an attainable goal for your child custody case. An attainable goal must be reasonable while not losing focus of your needs and concerns. Every person in a custody battle brings with them a wish list of items which they hope to achieve. This list should be broken down into three categories: non-negotiable items, desired items, and items that can be negotiated away. An example of a non-negotiable items would be “I want to have sole physical custody of my daughter”. This item would be an issue to go to trial over and there is no settlement short of achieving our goal that will suffice.
An Example of a desired item would be “I want my daughter to continue in Catholic school”. This is the type of issue that you would need to think long and hard before negotiating it away, however if you received sold physical custody of your daughter, maybe this is an item that we can negotiate. If you decide that a desired issue will go to trial you need to make sure that the issue you are fighting over is worth the cost of trial.
An example of a negotiable item would be “I want my daughter to continue in art classes”. While this item may seem important at the time, it very well may be worthwhile to negotiate this item for something that is more meaningful in the long term.
When setting your goals it is important to remember that the priorities you place on each goal item is your decision, not your lawyer, not your parents, not your friends. This is your fight. The lives of you and your children will be affected by the outcome.
The Plan. Once you have prioritized your goals, the next step is to develop your plan. The plan has to be specific, detailed and fluid. In order to create your plan you need to list each goal and how you intend to achieve this item should your case go to trial. It is also helpful to include the relevant statutes or case law which will be utilized to achieve your goal.
This should remain fluid. As your case progresses you need to keep a pulse on each step to determine whether your plan needs to change or maybe just be tweaked. You will also want to read either subtle or not so subtle hints that the Judge assigned to your case may give as to his or her thoughts on your case. In addition there may be changes in the law or case law which could create the need to alter your plan. The plan is a road map and sometimes you simply need to change your route.
The Strategy. Upon drafting your goals and devising a plan it is necessary find a strategy to implement your plan. Jerry Garcia stated so eloquently “sometimes the cards aint worth a dime if you don’t lay them down”. The strategy is the proverbial laying down of your cards. How will you accomplish your plan? Will you hire a lawyer?
My advice to all lawyers and non-lawyers alike, do not handle your own child custody case. The emotions run high and the terrain is rough. If you decide to hire a lawyer you will find that many lawyers and law firms will claim they handle divorce and custody matters. Find a lawyer that specializes in family law issues. Find a lawyer with whom you can easily communicate, appears to respond to your calls quickly, and will give you access to a lawyer during non-business hours (unfortunately domestic relation problems rarely happen between 9-5 Monday thru Friday), find a lawyer who seems to care about your issues.
Once you have chosen a lawyer it is up to you to be as involved or un-involved in your case as you see fit. Initially you should be involved to see what the plan is and how it will be achieved. Are there depositions you want held? Are there records you want subpoenaed? Make your concerns known and follow up that these items are being completed.
The law office of Michael E. Thomas PLLC is a full service family law office. We are here to help with any of your family law needs including divorce and child custody. Feel free to call for a consultation at (248) 855-6477 or on Michael’s cell phone at (734) 612- 7121