It’s scary to know that you’re heading towards a custody case. It’s especially scary to know that there’s very little you can do about it. No matter how you feel about it, wheels are in motion, and it’s all out of your power. When something like that threatens the well being and safety of your children, it’s normal to feel panicked. Still, when you’re panicked, you’re probably not making the best decisions.
It’s important that you take time out to get good, solid advice at the beginning of your case—before the mama bear in you makes you do things that hurt your chances of winning custody. It’s not your fault; any mother in the world would feel the way you do now. But you’ve got to make sure that you’re making smart, solid decisions at the beginning of the process. Believe it or not, where you start out at the beginning has a lot to do with where you’ll go over time.
If you and your child’s father are working through some issues relating to child custody, visitation, and support, you’re not alone. If the two of you have really strong beliefs about what could and should be happening, you’re not alone. If the two of you are diametrically opposed regarding what you believe should be happening, you’re not alone. The key to having a successful, productive custody case that allows you and your child’s father to go on afterwards and effectively co-parent together is to get started off on the right foot.
That’s the main difference between divorce and custody cases, after all. In cases where divorce is the only issue, it doesn’t matter too much how contentious it gets. (Of course, the more you fight, the more expensive your case ultimately is, and you should keep your budget in mind throughout.) After the divorce is entered, both people can go their separate ways. They don’t have to say nice things about each other or ever see each other again.
In a custody case, you’ll have to see each other again. You’ll see a lot of each other, during the course of your child’s life. Not only will you have to co-parent together until the child reaches the age of 18 (and, really, you’ll be co-parenting for years and years after that), but you’ll be attending the graduations, weddings, births, and birthday parties. You’ll see each other at holiday dinners and parties and celebrations, at funerals and wakes and times of sadness. Your families are inextricably interwoven at this point, and being able to work together is incredibly important. Not only that, but it’s definitely in your child’s best interests that you and your child’s father get along.
So, the bottom line: it’s hard, but you’re going to want to try to keep the peace. (Of course, keep in mind that I’m referring to most normal situations, barring sexual or physical abuse, or some kind of other shockingly horrible situation where the child’s best interest is served by being completely and totally removed from his or her father.) Generally speaking, the best way to make sure you’re able to keep the peace is to get started on the right foot.
You want to be sure you’re making the right decisions for you and your kids, so you’ll want to be sure you get the right information at the outset. So, where do you get started?
1. Request a free copy of our book, “The Woman’s Custody Survival Guide.”
The first (and easiest) step you can take is to request a free copy of our book, “The Woman’s Custody Survival Guide.”
If you’re going through a custody case (whether it’s part of a larger divorce action or not), you’ll want to read this book! It was written by Kristen Hofheimer, and covers lots of issues relating to custody cases in Virginia. Kristen talks about the ten critical child custody factors, the different types of custody that can be awarded in Virginia (legal versus physical custody, sole custody, primary physical custody, shared custody, and split custody), and even goes into detail about special circumstances in custody cases—where there are same sex parents; physical, emotional, or sexual abuse; homeschooling; breastfeeding, relocation, and more. It’s full of great pointers and guidance on how custody cases work in Virginia.
If you go to our website (which you can do quickly and easily by just clicking this link), you’ll see our web form: just enter your name and email address, and we’ll get an electronic copy of the book to you in just a few moments. If you live in our immediate area, we’ll send you another email, asking for your physical address. If you’d like to receive a hard copy of the book, fill it out, and we’ll get it shipped to you right away.
We ship all of our books in a plain white envelope. There’s nothing on the outside that would indicate what’s inside, but you may still prefer to have it shipped to a safe address if you’re still living with your child’s father. Enter whatever address you want—your mom’s, your sister’s, your co-worker’s, a neighbor’s, or a friend’s. We’ll get it shipped to you right away!
The best part? It’s totally free. So you know you’re getting up to date, accurate, Virginia specific information about child custody cases. You know it was written by an experienced, Virginia licensed custody attorney. You also know that it comes from a law firm that represents women only in divorce and custody cases, so we have a unique perspective.
Request your free copy today. Just click here.
2. Attend a seminar.
Once you’ve gotten some free information, you probably have some specific questions about your unique case that you’d like answered. (At least, that seems to be the way it works for most of the women we talk to!)
The next step is to attend a seminar. Depending on whether your case is custody only, or whether it’s divorce and custody, we have a low cost seminar designed to help make sure your questions are quickly answered.
Our Second Saturday seminar is our divorce seminar, and it covers pretty much everything you need to know about divorce and custody cases in Virginia. At the seminar, we cover grounds for divorce, how to file for divorce, how to get temporary support, custody, and possession of the house, the way to figure out what assets he has (and what he’s hiding), alternative dispute resolution options (like mediation, collaboration, and do it yourself divorce), how spousal support works, how custody, visitation, and child support are determined, and how property is divided.
It’s really comprehensive and, on top of that, each seminar is taught by one of our licensed and experienced Virginia divorce and custody attorneys, and you can ask your questions directly to the attorney!
The seminar is offered three times each month, on the Second Saturday of the month (hence the name) in Virginia Beach and Newport News, and on the third Tuesday of the month in Virginia Beach only. The cost to attend is $50 at the door, or $40 if you pre-register at our website.
Custody Bootcamp for Moms is our custody-specific seminar! For cases where you’re not also going through a divorce, you need specific legal information—and no one else is providing it.
Whether you’re planning on retaining an attorney or hope to represent yourself in your upcoming custody case, you’ll need more information. Custody Bootcamp for Moms is the only seminar of its kind, designed to teach you about what it takes to put on a custody case, including:
• The TEN critical custody factors you must know and the judge must consider;
• How to question and cross examine witnesses;
• When to sit and stand, what to wear, how to address the judge;
• How to create a trial notebook;
• How to get your evidence in (and keep his out);
• The secrets of working with Guardians ad Litem and custody evaluators;
• Top secret trial preparation tactics and techniques.
Our experienced and trial-tested child custody lawyers will work with you during this seven-hour seminar to prepare you to argue your own custody case in the Virginia courts—or check up on your current attorney.
The cost of attending Custody Bootcamp for Moms is less than the cost of a one hour consultation with a moderately-priced lawyer. For just $197, you’ll receive seven action-packed hours of intense preparation. There is no similar program for dads, so you’ll be sure to have an edge when you walk into the courtroom. For more information, check out our website by clicking here.
3. Meet with a therapist.
I know, I know. Talking to a therapist is probably one of the last things in the world you want to do. But, in my experience, the women who meet with therapists during their custody cases are a lot calmer and better prepared than the ones who don’t. Sometimes, talking through whatever it is that’s bothering you can go a long way towards helping you really feel better. Not only that, but it can help you identify what’s a real fear, and what’s just your neurotic subconscious. You can also learn effective techniques for coping with stress.
Your attorney is there to help you, but isn’t really equipped to help you effectively manage all the feelings you’re having. It’s really best for you if you talk to someone who is experienced in handling these types of emotions, and can give you good advice about what to do. Your friends and family, too, will have a hard time listening and giving good advice, but, with a therapist, you can be sure of an impartial ear and good, solid judgment. (And, also, they take insurance.)
4. Schedule a consultation.
After you’ve taken your first 3 steps, your next step should be to schedule a consultation. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to hire an attorney, but it’s always a good idea to at least talk to someone before you make any big decisions.
Talk to the attorney about what you’re thinking, and ask her opinions. Talk about your specific case, and your options. Ask the attorney what she thinks your best case scenario might be, or what she would do if she were in your shoes.
Find out how much it costs to retain an attorney; you’ll need to know to make the best plan possible for you and your family.
Most family law attorneys do charge for consultations, but it’s a great opportunity to talk to an attorney about your situation specifically.
5. Come up with a plan.
At this point, you should have had an opportunity to get all of your questions answered, so it’s time to figure out what your plan is. Whether you want to hire an attorney, see a mediator, or do it yourself, it’s time to start making choices that move your case forward.
You have enough information to make the choices you need to make. It’s time to trust yourself, and start making some choices.
Custody cases are difficult, and it can be hard to know where to turn. Your primary goal is protecting your children, and you’re worried you’ll make a mistake. If you follow these 5 steps, though, you’ll be informed, and well on your way towards resolution. If you need help, or want more information about our books, seminars, or other products, please feel free to give our office a call at (757) 425-5200.