I recently noticed that many Family Court litigants are clueless about filing and using the correct documents in their custody cases. There are different documents for diverse types of cases of course. But there are times when it is not just the type of case that matters, it is its purpose. There are petitions, complaints, responses, objections, oppositions, motions, show causes, cross-motions, cross-petition, and counterclaims. So, let’s discuss all family court documents in custody:
Type of Family Court Case
In Family Court, custody cases can go on forever. In fact, they typically do. If you are in court on custody once, you can almost bet on being back over the course of your child’s life until the age of majority. So, there is a difference, for example, in an initial case for Custody or Visitation and a Modification or Contempt case. The difference affects how the case will proceed, which rules apply and how they apply. So, an initial custody case might consist of the initial Complaint and maybe a Cross-Complaint as far as documents (pleadings). This is so because the parties are only trying to establish some sort of guidelines or parameters to co-parent. It is not uncommon that the parties are unaware of all the issues that may become an issue later.
Purpose of Family Court Documents in Custody
The other issue is what your objective is in the case. If you are seeking to shed light on the lies, deception, and false statements, then you might need to file a Response or Opposition. If your intentions are to present your own version of the circumstances, then you might want to file a Cross-Petition or Cross-Motion. But even further, if you have your own separate demands, then you should most certainly file a Cross-Motion or Cross-Petition in the custody or visitation case.
The document you file will still depend on the type of case, but your purpose for the document is important.
Procedure for Documents
Every single state has its own set of procedural rules when it comes to drafting, filing, and serving custody or visitation documents. They also have specific time frames and deadlines within which specific documents need to be filed. This is extremely important to know because it can affect how you choose to proceed. If you realize at some point in your case, that you should file a Cross-Petition what are your options?
Well, that depends on the point in which you realized it. Can you file a Cross-Petition at the time the case is scheduled for a hearing? If not, what can you do instead? These are all particularly important to know as you navigate your way through your case. You might not be able to, but you can ask for the court’s permission to file an Objection or Opposition. Or maybe you can get the court’s permission to extend the time for hearing/trial until you are able to have your Cross-Petition added to the court’s docket. The way you proceed is dictated by your court’s procedural rules as well as its administrative process.
How it All Comes into Play?
For those of you who do not know, my focus is always on the strategic aspect of custody cases. My unique approach takes a bird’s eye view of each case and produces a precise plan to help litigants reach their goals. This means that each of the elements I discussed above plays an important role. Timing, wording, positioning, etc. all these interplay in how a case should be presented for court success. So sometimes you might have missed a document filing deadline, but might be able to get on your side of the story another way. Therefore, it is critical to have these concepts in mind the moment you see yourself headed down this path.
It is extremely important that you are aware of your local court procedures, how to navigate your way around the court (and the website), and that you learn the different forms and their use. This knowledge can impact the overall outcome of your custody case.