• (616) 454-5222

How to File and Prepare for a Child Custody Case

January 11, 2022 John Engman & Associates

How to File and Prepare for a Child Custody Case

joint child custodyChild custody can be daunting.  Fighting for the custody of your child is a parent’s worst nightmare.  You should consider and try many things, all that you can, to put your differences aside to come up with a custody agreement that will work for your children.  If you go to court, you will need to understand the factors that a judge uses to determine custody and remember the judge doesn’t know you, your family or your child.  We can assist with this and answer all your FAQs regarding divorce.  

There are many ways to come up with a custody agreement that will be the best for your situation. Every situation is different and should be approached in a customized manner.  Through the help of a mediator, most parents can come up with an agreement that will work for them.  You will then simply need to present this arrangement to the judge for approval. Most of the time, the agreement will be approved without any issues.

If you find it impossible to come up with an agreement that you both can live with, you will need to file a motion with the court to start the custody process.

Talk to the Other Parent

We cannot stress this enough.  Try to work it out between you, as a judge will look at many factors. They do not know your children as you do. If you can come up with something, you will save yourself a lot of time, stress, and money.  

Hire an Attorney

When you cannot reach an agreement, you will need to hire an experienced attorney who can fight for your rights and help you get the custody you deserve.  A divorce lawyer will know the ins and outs of the court systems.  They can offer suggestions and tell you from their experiences what to expect in your particular case.  A knowledgeable Grand Rapids divorce attorney will help you devise a plan and file a formal petition with the courts for custody. 

File a Petition for Custody

The first step is to find a trustworthy Grand Rapids divorce attorney that can help you with your custody situation.  You will need to then file a petition with the court.  This petition will need to include things such as:

  • The children’s names, birthdates, and social security numbers
  • Both parents’ identifying information such as name, address, phone number, social security, and date of birth.
  • Information of any previous court decisions.
  • Your proposed Custody arrangements
  • Details on your current custody arrangement
  • Details on why you need the court’s help and your formal request for court intervention.

Where do I File?

If you are going to try to do this without an attorney, which is not recommended, you file at the Friend of the Court clerk’s office.  Usually, there is a small filing fee.  If you cannot afford the fee, you can request a “fee waiver” with another form and explain why.  

What Happens Next?

While your attorney mostly does this. If you choose to try to do this independently, you will need to serve the other parent.  You can hire a private server that offers these types of services, or you can have the Kent County Sheriff’s office do this for you.  You should consult an attorney on what to do for your case.

Then, you will then have to wait 21 days to see if they object to your proposal. This is the time frame they have to return and answer to the court.  If nothing is returned, the court will assume the other party agrees and will put it into your records.  This will then enter into a default judgment.

What is a Default Judgment?

The court will award custody to the parent that filed for custody if the other party doesn’t respond.  

Avoiding a default judgment is really important in the case where you believe that child isn’t your child.  Many parents will ignore the court papers, as the child isn’t theirs in the first place.  However, this can cause a default judgment and a bunch of headaches later.  In this case, you should file a motion back stating this information and ask for a paternity test.  If you fail to answer the petition of custody, you may lose the chance to prove that you are not the biological parent and could look at supporting a child that isn’t yours for 18 years.  

Preparing for a Custody Hearing

A custody hearing is undoubtedly one of the most stressful and anxiety-inducing events that a parent could ever have to go through. It can also be an extremely complicated process, which many people find difficult to navigate without the help of a lawyer.

A custody hearing is a legal proceeding in which an individual or couple can ask the court to decide who should have custody of a child(ren) in the event that the parents are divorcing or separating. When preparing for a custody hearing, it is important to have all relevant documentation ready so that you can present it to the judge.

Typically you will be told to go through the Friend of the Court in Kent County.  They will interview both parties and the children and come up with a solution that they feel is best for your current situation. 

They will come up with a recommendation for child custody.  However, if either party objects, they can ask to go in front of the judge.

The Custody Trial

A custody trial is where you present your case to the judge.  It is highly advised that you use a professional divorce attorney specializing in Kent County custody cases.  John Engman & Associates P.C. is just that attorney.  

The judge will hear the case and look at all the evidence that is presented.  The judge will look at all the different factors for child custody.  However, they will also look at:

  • Each parent’s willingness to foster an ongoing and meaningful relationship between the child and the other parent.
  • The child’s needs (special needs, breastfeeding)
  • Each parent’s mental and physical wellbeing
  • The child’s school, home, and community record
  • Whether there’s a history of domestic violence or child abuse
  • The parent’s desires for custody
  • The child’s wishes, if the child is mature enough
  • The child’s relationship with each parent and siblings
  • Each parent’s ability to provide the child necessities, like food, clothing, and shelter

Custody arrangements are very customized due to many factors.  If you are going against what is recommended by FOC, you will need good solid proof and reason for the judge to consider changing it.  You may need to bring in some experts such as therapists and teachers to assist with your case.  

The Final Custody Order

The judge will give the final order.  This may be delivered right there on the spot, or they may send a written copy in the mail.  If you have temporary arrangements made, you will stick with those in most cases.  

In some cases, things happen that make you want to appeal to this order. You will need to discuss this with your divorce attorney to find out if this is a good idea.  

If you feel your child is in danger at any time due to the other parent getting involved with another party, you can always take a look at the custody arrangement then and final an emergency custody order.  This should be done if you have reason to believe that your child is being abused or neglected at the other home.  However, be sure that you have solid proof of this and are not making things up.  

If you are looking at a possible custody battle in your future, you need to call on the experience of John Engman & Associates today.  616-454-5222.

At John Engman & Associates, P.C., our Michigan divorce attorneys will do everything in their power to help you through this difficult time To request a consultation with one of our Grand Rapids, MI drug lawyers, give our office a call at (616) 454-5222.