One of the most important aspects of a divorce is figuring out who gets primary child custody. Sometimes it goes smoother than others, meaning the parents are able to create a co-parenting plan together. Other times, parents wind up going to court to involve a third-party in deciding the best course of action.

We are going to talk about each of these scenarios.

Child Custody Case – Settlement 

Fans of TV shows and movies with a high focus on law may already be familiar with a few court terms, such as the term “settlement.” A settlement occurs when two parties come to an agreement without having to go all the way to court.

A settlement is typically seen as the optimal outcome. While it often means neither party gets 100% of what they want, it is less likely to lead to animosity and strained relationships down the road. This is especially important in a child custody case since it’s generally best if both parents stay involved in the child’s life.

If parents are able to settle, they come to an agreement on the terms and create a co-parenting plan together. The plan lays out exactly how the parents will work together to care for their children. The plan is then submitted to a court where a judge can turn it into a final order.

Child Custody Case – Trial 

When child custody can not be mediated by a settlement agreement between the parents, the custody case goes to court.

To make a custody court case a bit more seamless parents should be prepared with a number of documents on hand. While it’s best to speak with an attorney for a full list of the documents needed in preparation for a court case, we recommend starting with these:

Tax information – Tax information helps the court determine the recent income of each parent. This factors into both who gets primary custody of the child as well as child support for whoever doesn’t get primary custody. 

Pay stubs – While tax information provides proof of previous income, pay stubs provide proof of current income. 

Daycare information – If the child or children involved in the custody case need daycare in order for the primary custody holder to work, it’s important to show the court the cost of the daycare.

Once parents have spoken to attorneys and organized documents needed for court, it’s time to schedule a hearing. The timing of this can be difficult thanks to COVID, as a lot of cases were put on hold and the courts are now backed up more than usual.

 Ideally, parents can expect to have a hearing about once a month until the case is resolved.

A hearing can last anywhere between thirty minutes to a few hours. During hearings, witnesses are examined and cross-examined. Evidence is discussed. And, eventually, a judge makes a decision.


While there are some basic commonalities, the truth is each child custody case is unique, just as each family and child is unique. Give us a call at 714.456.9118 or send us an email at and we’ll see how we can help.

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