This is the next post in our series on the rights of unmarried parents in Orange County, California. Our last article discussed the importance of discovery in child custody cases. It is important to understand that, unless a case is built through the use of discovery, you will likely not have needed evidence at trial. In this article we will be discussing what it is parents should expect from the trial process. Knowing what to expect from the process will help to ensure that things go more smoothly than they would otherwise.
Trial in an Orange County child custody case is somewhat similar to what one may have seen in the media. The matter will be presided over by a Judge but there will be no jury. The Plaintiff in the case will present their evidence first. This evidence will be in the form of witness testimony as well as documented evidence (such as the child’s school records, correspondence between the parents, etc.). The responding parent will then be given an opportunity to present their case and this will be followed by a rebuttal by the Plaintiff. After both sides have presented their case then the Judge will decide the case. In some cases the Judge will issue an immediate order and in others it may take time for a decision to be issued.
The Court will base its decision on the best interest of the child. In determining what is in a child’s best interest the Judge will consider factors such as the wishes of the child (assuming the child is old enough to make an intelligent decision), any history of violence between the parents, the ability of each parent to meet the child’s needs, the mental and physical health of each parent, whether either parent would likely frustrate the other’s attempt at building a relationship with the child, as well as other factors.
It is important to understand that the rules of evidence will be strictly enforced during a trial. When a witness is called to the stand questions may only be asked if they are relevant to the case; parents will not get to simply bring up any and every issue they wish to discuss. Also, questions must be asked in an appropriate form or they will be subject to objection. When introducing documented evidence it must be presented after asking certain questions and through a proper request for admission. Failing to follow these rules may result in a parent going to Court and not being able to provide necessary information to the Judge.
It is crucial that you retain an attorney who primarily practices in the area of family law and is familiar with the process described above. Not retaining experienced counsel may result in your not presenting the necessary facts to win your case. Contact our Laguna Hills office today to speak with an Orange County child custody lawyer. We also service Aliso Viejo, Anaheim, Buena Park, Costa Mesa, Dana Point, Fountain Valley, Fullerton, Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, Irvine, La Habra, Ladera Ranch, Laguna Beach, Laguna Niguel, Lake Forest, Mission Viejo, Newport Beach, Orange, Placentia, Rancho Santa Margarita, San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano, Santa Ana, Tustin, Westminster, and Yorba Linda.