Parents often turn to Family Court to resolve child placement and legal custody. Almost always, the Family Court process involving child custody takes months to unfold. That’s why it’s beneficial to have the right perspective. Be patient; you’re in this for the long haul. Throughout this long and sometimes tedious child custody battle, it helps to understand how the Family Court process works. Here are the basic eight steps related to child custody orders.
Step 1: File a motion
The first step — someone has to file a motion. Although it sounds simple and straight-forward, it’s actually pretty profound. Courts only decide issues brought before them. If parents can’t decide on physical placement and legal custody on their own, or an existing court order isn’t working for a family, a parent can file a motion.
Step 2: Initial hearing
The second step is an initial hearing. Contrary to what some people believe, an initial hearing isn’t the time to present witnesses and testimony. Actually, it’s typically a quick hearing simply to get the two parties together and legally recognize the action taking place.
Step 3: Mediation
As a third step, the court (as required by law) refers Mom and Dad to mediation. Mediation is skipped in particular circumstances; typically, some type of abuse occurred in the family. Through mediation, Mom and Dad might agree on terms, and a Family Court order is drafted.
Step 4: Guardian ad litem
If mediation results in an impasse or is skipped altogether, then parents move to the fourth step. The court appoints guardian ad litem. Guardian ad litem is a neutral attorney who becomes an advocate for the child. He or she investigates the facts and tries to determine what’s in the best interest of the child, then presents a recommendation to the court commissioner or judge.
Step 5: Agreement
In the fifth step, Mom and Dad have two choices. They can come to an agreement in light of what the guardian ad litem recommends or go to a contested hearing.
Step 6: Contested hearing
At a contested hearing, Mom and Dad call witnesses and present their cases. At the conclusion of a contested hearing, Family Court orders are finalized. Mom, Dad, and the children have a legal set of rules to follow.
Step 7: De Novo hearing
Step seven can occur if a court commissioner decides the case, and Mom or Dad doesn’t like the outcome. In this instance, a parent can request a De Novo hearing and take it before a judge. The whole case is run again.
Step 8: Appeal
Mom or Dad may decide to appeal the decision, although this is rare.
Family Court Advisor
As you can see, Family Court proceedings are long and involved. Parents can expect to spend 3-6 months (or more) at each of these steps. To keep proceedings moving along and achieve the best outcome for yourself and your children, it’s smart to partner with an experienced Family Law attorney. I have been practicing Family Law in Brown County, Outagamie County, and Oconto County since 2012. I can help you through the twists and turns of Family Court. Contact me to arrange a complimentary consultation.
About Us: Attorney Devin Shanley is the approachable expert clients can trust. A native of Green Bay, Wisconsin, Devin has been developing legal solutions in his beloved hometown since 2012. Married to Mo and dad to two rambunctious kids, he has a soft spot for the Green Bay Packers, grilling out, and playing with his kids. His areas of practice are Estate Planning, Family Law, Business Law, and Non-Profit Organization Law. Schedule your free consultation by calling 920-471-4337.