The first hearing will be to determine whether the case is contested or not. If it is contested, a hearing will be set on a later date-several months in the future. The court will appoint a Guardian Ad Litem (lawyer for the child) and may order Home Studies of the parties' residences if living conditions are an issue. Psychological evaluations will not be ordered at the first hearing and in fact, are rarely ordered. If they are, the parties pay for them. The court also will divide the cost of the GAL between the parties. If a party is indigent, no cost will be assessed to that party.
The court also will direct the parties to attend the mediation orientation and provides no-cost mediation services. This is a very good process which should be pursued prior to going to court. If an agreement is reached, it is presented to the judge and entered as a court order.
In answer to the follow-up question, a court can order the parties to attend family therapy. The court does not have access to such programs, so the parties would have to pay for it.
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