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The most common phrase you should know when it comes to child custody and visitation is “best interest of the child.” This is often the phrase you will hear when the Judge makes orders regarding the specific parenting plan for the children. It is the public policy for the Court to make orders that support will ensure the well being of the child is protected. In general, the Courts try to provide a parenting plan as close as possible to each party parenting the child for an equal amount of time. However, there are many reasons for the Courts to deviate from this general policy.

Age of the child, history of which parent is the primary custodian, work schedules of the parents, location of residence of each parent are some of the main factors for the Court when making custody and visitation orders in the best interest of the child. However, there are many other more serious factors that may affect the custody orders. A few of these factors include: a parent’s history of substance abuse, anger management issues, neglect, and use of physical force with the children.

Child custody and visitation motions are often the most litigious motions in family law.  For example: when there are severe allegations against one of the parents in the matter the Court could appoint minor’s counsel to represent the children, order a detailed custody evaluation to take place, order the child to attend therapy or conjoint therapy between the children and a parent with a strained relationship with the child.

It is crucial for parents to remember the Court always favors parents working out a parenting plan between each other. The Court provides free mediation services for custody and visitation issues and it is the goal of these mediation sessions for the parents to use these services to try to work out an agreement that works for both parents, but most of all is beneficial for the child. Unfortunately, mediation does not always work and litigation is required. A savvy custody litigator is always helpful to have in your corner when going through a custody battle.

Basic procedure in a motion for custody and visitation:

1. File Request for Order

File Request for Order to explain what you want the Court to decide. Once filed you will receive a court date and a mediation date.

3. Attend Mediation

During a mediation, the mediator will draft a recommendation report and copies will be provided to all parties and the Judge.

2. Serve Request for Order

Serve the Request for Order on the other party prior to the mediation date. You will also need to file a proof of service at the same time.

4. Scheduled Hearing

If agreement is reached, the Court will make it an order. If not, the Court will hear the mediator, and both sides when making a decision.

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