Understanding the Process
In order to attempt to answer some of your questions in advance, I have prepared the following series of resources. Custody and Divorce cases travel through similar procedural paths and scheduling patterns, so this information below applies to many aspects of both. There are helpful videos linked for each topic. My goal is that you understand the different hearings and how to prepare for a contested case in advance.
After both sides have submitted their document batches, the court clerks will schedule the first hearing and mail both sides information when they should attend. This is the Scheduling Conference hearing, where the court typically orders both sides attend mediation, and then attend the second hearing, the Settlement Conference, where the court determines whether settlement is possible. If not, the case moves to the third and final hearing, the Trial, where both sides will discuss their reasoning and the court will make a final decision.
The trial is typically the final hearing in a family case. Each side has an opportunity to correct the record and state key facts in support of their case, and then the court makes a decision. The court may order evaluations (such as a mental health evaluation) or a home study. The Scheduling Order lists deadlines for completing these steps. In this hearing, the judge must weigh certain factors. At the end, the court typically does not announce its decision in the courtroom.
In the weeks and months leading up to your final court date:
Write down and meet any deadlines.
Be sure to file responses and motions on time.
Keep important dates on your calendar.
Write down notes for your side in advance.
Organize evidence and arrange for witnesses.
Here are some tips to prepare you for any hearing:
Be on time, which means arriving early.
Dress professionally and shut off your phone.
Speak clearly and ask for what you want.
Treat everyone with respect and be calm.
Do not interrupt anyone, and tell the truth.