This article isn't about style, although dressing appropriately for court is a sign of respect that is a requirement for any case.
Rather, it's about how to look good as a person, and, more importantly in a custody or visitation case, as a parent. How can you do this? That doesn't mean you can't take a strong stand for what you believe to be in your children's best interests. As a parent, you must do that. But taking a step back to see where you can try to compromise, even if it doesn't result in settlement, can really go a long way in a custody or visitation hearing.
Follow the Golden Rule.
Just as your parents and teachers taught you, we all need to treat others the way we want them to treat us. Another way to think about this is to recognize that judges tend to reward generosity of spirit. The court sees fighting parents all the time. After all, the ones who can get along don't usually find themselves inside the courtroom litigating custody or visitation. Failing to follow the Golden Rule can cost you time with your children or the ability to make decisions that impact their lives. One of the factors a Virginia judge must consider in a custody or visitation case is the willingness of each parent to actively support the child's contact and relationship with the other parent. Another is the willingness and demonstrated ability of each parent to maintain a close and continuing relationship with the child, and the ability of each parent to cooperate in and resolve disputes about the child.
Think about it this way:
Do you really want a judge to hear the names you called your ex-husband because he showed up ten minutes late for soccer practice and he forgot your child's uniform? What about having to read out loud before the judge a copy of the exchange you had with your teenage daughter on Facebook? You know, the part when you said you couldn't stand dealing with her mother anymore because she is a liar and a cheat and you hope your daughter doesn't turn out to be anything like her?
Remember the ultimate goal is to do what's best for your children.
One of your goals in a custody or visitation case is to convince the judge that you are a mature adult, able and willing to handle all situations your child encounters, right? Guess what? Your ex is going to be right there in the majority of those situations. Following the Golden Rule can help you look exactly the way you want to be seen in court. So if your first impulse after an argument over which summer sport your child should play is to send a vicious, nasty email castigating your ex for his or her every fault -- both now and in the past -- think again. It's not very productive, and it's definitely not going to demonstrate your ability to cooperate in and resolve disputes.