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What happens in a contested child custody trial?

On Behalf of | Oct 10, 2023 | Child Custody |

A contested child custody trial happens when parents cannot amicably agree on a workable custody arrangement.

In these cases, alternative dispute resolutions, such as mediation with a neutral third party, may not apply because each party may have extremely clashing parenting styles and views on what serves the child’s best interests.

Thus, their circumstances require litigation. Even if going to court often consumes time and resources, parents seek a judge or magistrate to help them settle an agreement. Knowing what happens in a trial can guide both parties in preparing accordingly.

What to expect during a trial

Maryland courts require parents to observe proper courtroom etiquette during a child custody trial. No matter how emotionally intense the process tends to be, parents must maintain composure. They must also refrain from making wild outbursts because it can only hurt their case.

Instead, they must focus on making their presence count in front of a judge or magistrate during the following procedures:

  • Opening statement: Lawyers introduce the parents’ claims and outline significant points. This declaration is usually not argumentative and only provides an overview of what to anticipate from each side.
  • Evidence submission: Both parents present evidence, including witnesses who can validate their claim. Everyone taking the stand often undergoes cross-examination.
  • Closing argument: Parents may summarize why the court must rule in their favor.

Depending on the complexity of the family’s situation, the decision may be available right after the trial. In some cases, it may take longer due to more time needed to weigh relevant factors, such as both parents’ fitness, the quality of existing parent-child relationships or the child’s custodial preferences, that can protect the child’s welfare.

How to challenge a decision

Not all court decisions satisfy parents. Sometimes, parents may feel that the final decision does not reflect the reality of their family dynamics. When this happens, they can ask for a review. However, appeals or exceptions tend to be complicated. Working with a legal representative ready to advocate for their parental rights and their child’s future proves paramount.