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What happens when child custody cases go to court

Parents in Tennessee who are going through a divorce might wonder what will happen at the child custody hearing and how best to prepare for it. The courtroom in which these types of hearings is held is generally smaller than others, and fewer people are present than in other types of courtroom proceedings.

Parents should dress conservatively. They should also be ready to answer a number of questions from the judge that will focus on the child's well-being. For example, the judge may ask about a parent's ability to provide emotional support. Some questions may be prompted by a parent's particular situation. If the parent works full time, the judge might ask what kind of child care arrangements have been made for the times when the child is out of school. Parents may also want to bring witnesses who can testify about their parenting skills. This might be teachers, child care providers or others. Children who are old enough to take part in the decision might also testify.

Once everyone has had a chance to speak, the judge will make a decision based on the best interests of the child. The judge will also make a visitation schedule for the noncustodial parent that includes holidays. The proceedings may move swiftly because there are probably multiple cases that must be heard that day.

Not every child custody case must go through a court hearing like this. Sometimes, parents may negotiate an agreement for custody and visitation. They may then submit this to court to make it legally binding. Parents might also want to consider joint custody in which the child lives with each of them for roughly 50 percent of the time. An attorney may be able to help parents prepare for a court hearing or negotiate a custody and visitation arrangement outside of court.

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