Child Custody Disputes

Cherokee County Custody Dispute Attorneys

If your custody case is contested, there are two major hearings in which a judge may determine custody and visitation:

  • The temporary hearing
  • The final hearing

The temporary hearing usually occurs within one to two months after the divorce is filed. At this hearing, there will be an immediate determination of rights and obligations of each parent. The purpose of the hearing is to create a structured environment until there is a settlement or until the final hearing can occur. Be aware: the result of the temporary hearing could guide your family for as little as another 60 days or for multiple years. It is essential that you retain a lawyer for this hearing. A temporary hearing has substantial impact on your custody case. We work with our clients to substantially prepare for the temporary hearing.

There are certain rules that govern what type of evidence can be introduced at a temporary hearing. In addition, there are very specific rules that require certain documents to be provided to the other side within a certain amount of time prior to the temporary hearing. Failure to understand and follow the rules may at minimum result in your case being postponed for another 30 days. The time between the filing of the divorce and the temporary hearing is critical. We work with our clients to ensure the best presentation of evidence can be made at the temporary hearing. We work diligently to subpoena documents for the temporary hearing, obtain affidavits from prospective witnesses, and even depose the other party prior to the temporary hearing. In some cases, the outcome of the temporary hearing will cause the other part to settle the case quickly. In other cases, the temporary hearing outcome will govern a parent’s relationship with his or her child for years until a final hearing can occur.

Discovery of Evidence — Georgia Custody Attorneys Who Get the Job Done Right

Between the temporary and final hearing, a process called discovery occurs. The law allows us to obtain documents from the other side and vice versa. It also allows us to depose (question under oath) the other party or other individuals who have information regarding the case. Many times we obtain cell phone records (even prepaid phones), medical records, and financial records by deposing the corporation who holds the records. We also are able to obtain employment-related information, DFCS records in some cases, criminal history documents, prescription drug information, text messages, e-mails, photographs, voice recordings and other critical pieces of evidence to prove your case. Discovery also allows us to promote settlement of your case without a trial. Many times we present evidence we have obtained to the other party that causes him or her to settle the case without going before the judge or jury. We educate our clients on how to obtain the evidence we need at the cheapest method possible. We also provide guidance to our clients regarding how evidence may be obtained against them during this process, including being recorded, videotaped, surveilled or how people may intercept e-mails illegally. We ensure each client leaves our office with the tools to best defend against these types of situations.

During the process, we educate our clients on how to effectively communicate and engage with your spouse during litigation. Your communication and conduct are critical to your case. Many times uneducated litigants severely hurt their custody case by acting inappropriately or exercising poor judgment during the litigation. We want you to be successful and guide each client through this difficult process. We are available through e-mail, text message or cell phone should an immediate situation arise that needs discussion. One bad decision could compromise your entire case. Trust is an essential element of our working relationship. We sometimes advise our client to make a decision that is not popular; however, we understand the process and the benefit to the decision.

Guardian Ad Litem and His or Her Role in Cherokee County Child Custody Hearings

Also between the temporary and final hearing, a Guardian Ad Litem may be appointed to represent the interests of the child(ren). Usually, the GAL is an attorney. This person conducts an investigation and produces a report, which makes a recommendation to the Court as to what the custody arrangement should be. This recommendation has a substantial effect on the custody case. We work closely with each GAL to ensure the GAL is provided critical evidence to support our client’s case. We also work with our clients on how to conduct themselves while there is a GAL involved in the case.

Your case could also involve a Custody Evaluation made by a trained psychologist or psychiatrist. Usually, each parent and child participates in a series of psychological tests and is interviewed by the mental health professional. After the testing and investigation are completed, the mental health professional makes a recommendation to the Court as to what the custody arrangement should be.

As you can see, there are various tools parties use in a contested custody case. Many of these tools require using outside experts to assist us in preparation for a settlement conference or a final hearing. Each tool requires an in-depth understanding of the subject matter. We provide our clients up-to-date guidance on how we can effectively use these tools to assist them in their pursuit. We also give you a realistic assessment of whether using each tool will work for your benefit. Many times, extensive discovery, custody evaluations, depositions and other tools provide limited assistance. In other cases, we attempt to block using these tools for strategic reasons such as the cost involved or the attempt to buy the outcome of the case.

Resolving Custody Disputes Through Mediation

Once the evidence has been obtained, the case is ready for a final hearing or trial. Before the final hearing, you will participate in mediation in an attempt to resolve the case without the need for a trial.

Mediation is the process by which a mediator (trained attorney) attempts to facilitate a settlement of all or some issues between the parties. Generally both parties, their attorneys, and the mediator meet in one conference room to discuss the case. During the mediation, each side may go into their own room and discuss issues with the mediator in private. Like everything else in the litigation process, there are strategies we employ to create a successful mediation session, including which mediator to select. Each mediator brings with him or her his or her own mediation style. We attempt to match the style with our clients’ needs to ensure they are provided the best mediation environment. In addition, we strive to be as prepared as possible for the mediation session, including bringing a proposed Settlement Agreement to mediation that  can attempt to facilitate a settlement on paper. Many times, the GAL and other experts will be present in mediation to facilitate a settlement. Mediation is a good tool to provide an objective evaluation of your case prior to making the decision to go to trial. We work with clients to prepare them for mediation, including reviewing general ground rules for mediation and seeing whether they have any mediations requests (not being in the same room as their spouse, a specific location preference, etc.).

Final Hearings for Georgia Child Custody Disputes

A final hearing is the ultimate trial of the case. The final hearing is usually scheduled after all the discovery (evidence gathering) is completed. The final hearing could occur before a judge or jury. If there is a jury trial, the judge would rule on the custody and visitation portions of the case; and the jury would make child support, alimony and property division decisions.

Depending upon the complexity of the case, a final hearing could last between an hour and multiple days of trial. During the trial, we present our case and defend against claims made by the other party. We work with our clients prior to trial to simulate the trial experience so that you will know what to expect. During custody cases, we may have to cross-examine experts, neighbors, teachers or other witnesses who state facts contrary to those you believe were true. We pride ourselves on our ability to aggressively cross-examine witnesses and make a presentation of evidence that overwhelms the other side. We want to provide the judge as much information as possible to rule in our favor. We take pride in our trial abilities and work diligently to present the best case possible. You as the client sit next to us and assist us in ensuring your perspective is clearly articulated to the Court. We work as a team with our clients to obtain the best result for your family.

Contact a Cherokee County Contested Child Custody Attorney

Contact The Mason Law Firm, LLC, via e-mail or call our law office 770-720-7596 to speak to a Cherokee County child custody attorney.