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What to do if you can't attend a child custody/support hearing

When you're going through a divorce, attending child custody and support hearings is likely among the most important obligations you'll have. What if a court schedules a hearing when it is difficult, if not impossible, for you to attend?

This often happens when the divorce proceedings (or later hearings involving custody and support) are conducted in a location where you no longer live. Even if they are local, you may not have a job where you can take time off of work when you need to. There could be other factors beyond your control that keep you from attending.

You can ask the court to postpone the hearing or change the date to one where you will be able to attend. You can also ask if you can participate in the hearing via video chat or telephone. That's a more reasonable (and likely) accommodation than asking that the venue be changed to be more convenient for you.

A parent can also seek to waive his or her appearance at the hearing entirely. There's a chance that such a request could harm your case, so talk with your family law attorney before you make such a request.

If you request a change to a hearing date or request to participate in the hearing virtually because you no longer live in the area, you will likely need to provide the court with proof of your new location. If you aren't able to attend because of work obligations, you may be asked to provide documentation from your employer.

In some cases, parents don't want to attend these hearings because they are afraid of their co-parent. If you have reason to fear for your safety and/or have a protective order against him or her, let the court know that.

In most cases, it's best for parents to attend these hearings to show the judge how committed they are to being part of their children's life and to seeking what's in their best interests. If the scheduling of these hearings creates problems, let your attorney know so that he or she can work to convince the court to accommodate your needs while protecting your parental rights.

Source: The Spruce, "Scheduling a Custody or Child Support Court Date," Debrina Washington, accessed Oct. 25, 2017

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