1. Get an attorney experienced in Family Court matters.
2. Also consider a forensic child psychologist to evaluate you and your children and offer independent testimony about what is in the "best interests of the children".
3. Stay calm. Don't "coach" the kids or disparage your ex (their father) in front of them, and allow the children access to the Attorney for the Children.
4. Have your attorney ask for sufficient time to gather facts and prepare for a trial if there has to be one (sometimes family mediation may help).
5. Don't worry about the lies, let your attorney tell your side of the story.
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Don't panic. First of all, the case is not decided at your first appearance. Explain to the court that you need an attorney and provision and/or time will be allotted to you to obtain one. Your attorney will best advise how to defend against the calumnious utterances of your ex, if indeed they are.
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I agree with my colleagues. You need a family lawyer as soon as possible so that you can give him or her all of the facts and then devise a strategy. You talk about being set up. Was ACS contacted? If so, you need to get an attorney immediately. If not, you will still need a family lawyer to help you through this. Your ex will have a lawyer and you don't want to be outmatched in court. If these are a bunch of lies, the truth will come out. It depends how old the children are -- if they are of sufficient age, they may be able to have an in camera hearing (in chambers) with the judge and speak with the judge alone, with their attorney (see about Attorney for the Children, below). You may also want to think about having witnesses, although your lawyer will help you with that. There may be an Attorney for the Children appointed, and if so, you will need to cooperate with that Attorney. I agree that you should not coach the children because besides being the wrong thing to do, it will backfire on you and the court and Attorney for the Children will know the kids are being coached. See if you can start a journal right away -- try to remember incidents, events, etc. Reach out to a family lawyer in your area and schedule a consultation as soon as possible. I wish you the best of luck!
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