How can I expect during a child custody hearing?

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Among the many decisions that must be hashed out during a divorce, making decisions about child custody is often the most challenging. All courts strive to make determinations that are in the best interest of the children at the center of the dispute, but what this means for a family can depend on a number of factors. Here are a few things to keep in mind when preparing for your custody hearing. 

It is best to develop a parenting plan on your own 

Courts prefer that parents arrive to their hearing with a parenting plan in place. Parenting plans layout practical considerations like scheduling, holiday visits, and who is responsible for picking up or dropping off a child to school. The more work you and your ex-spouse put into your parenting plan, the less likely it is you will receive an unfavorable decision. 

There is a difference between legal & physical custody 

Legal custody refers to who has the authority to make important decisions on a child’s behalf. These decisions often involve things like medical care, schooling, or other essential issues. Physical custody refers to where a child lives. In this case, one parent may have sole legal custody but share physical custody of a child. 

Children have more autonomy after a certain age 

If your custody hearing involves a child under the age of 14, decisions will be made on that child’s behalf. However, upon reaching age 14, your child will be able to make decisions on his or her own. Additionally, children over the age of 14 can alter living arrangements every two years at their own discretion. Parents can also request a change to their custody situation every two years, which usually occurs when there have been significant changes that impact the existing arrangement.