Jackie Kong, Esq.

Jackie Kong, Esq.

Hawaii Divorce and Family Law Attorney

Court’s Role in Custody & Visitation: What to Expect

January 15, 2024

Navigating the waters of custody and visitation can be one of the most challenging aspects of a family breakup. Understanding the role of the court in these decisions is crucial for parents as they prepare to advocate for their child’s best interests. In this blog, we’ll explore how the court approaches these decisions, the factors it considers, and how you can best prepare for a custody hearing.


How the Court Makes Decisions

The primary objective of any court in a custody case is to serve the best interests of the child. This principle guides every decision, from who gets custody to the specifics of visitation schedules. Here’s a general overview of the process:

1. Filing a Petition: The process usually begins with one parent filing a petition for custody or visitation rights.

2. Mediation: Many courts encourage or require mediation before a formal hearing, giving parents a chance to reach an agreement with the help of a neutral third party.

3. Court Hearing: If mediation doesn’t result in an agreement, the case will go to a court hearing, where a judge will make the final decision.

4. Order Issued: After the hearing, the court will issue an order outlining the custody arrangement and visitation schedule.


Factors Considered by the Court

Several factors come into play when the court decides on custody and visitation. While these can vary slightly by jurisdiction, they commonly include:

1. Child’s Age and Health: Younger children may need different arrangements than older ones, and a child’s physical and mental health can also influence decisions.

2. Parental Stability: The court looks at each parent’s ability to provide a stable, loving environment. This includes considerations of home life, employment, and any history of abuse or neglect.

3. Child’s Preference: In some cases, particularly with older children, the court may consider the child’s preference.

4. Existing Relationships: The strength and nature of the child’s relationship with each parent, as well as with siblings and other significant individuals, can influence the court’s decision.

5. Parent’s Willingness to Support the Other’s Relationship with the Child: The court favors parents who are willing to encourage and facilitate a healthy relationship between the child and the other parent.

Preparing for a Custody Hearing

Preparation is key to navigating a custody hearing successfully. Here are some steps you can take:

1. Gather Documentation: Prepare any documents that support your case, including communication records, a log of visitation times, and character references.

2. Understand the Law: Familiarize yourself with the custody laws in your jurisdiction so you understand what the court is looking for.

3. Consider Legal Representation: An experienced family law attorney can provide invaluable guidance and representation.

4. Stay Focused on the Child: Always keep your child’s best interests at the forefront. The court will be doing the same.

5. Be Ready to Compromise: Understand that the court’s decision may involve compromises and be prepared to accept an outcome that is in the best interests of your child, even if it’s not exactly what you were hoping for.


The role of the court in custody and visitation decisions is to ensure that the outcome serves the child’s best interests. By understanding the factors the court considers and adequately preparing for your hearing, you can effectively advocate for your child’s needs and your parental rights. Remember, the goal of any custody arrangement should be to provide the child with a stable, loving environment where they can thrive.

Navigating custody and visitation decisions is never easy, but understanding the court’s role and how you can prepare can help you approach the process with confidence and clarity, always keeping your child’s well-being as the top priority

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Jackie Kong, Esq.

Jackie Kong, Esq., a Hawaii Divorce and Family Law Attorney

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