Divorce can come as a shock to the children of the separating spouses. As their parents squabble, the children often feel disheartened and lonely. Normally, courts throughout the country, including those here in New York, expect parents to come up with a child custody plan between themselves and then the judge will approve the plan without a custody hearing.
When a child's parents cannot come to an agreement about child's custody, then the judge will hold a child custody hearing. This is also referred to as an evidentiary hearing. The judge takes into account what both sides believe are the best interests of the child and makes a decision on child custody accordingly. A parent's visitation rights are also decided at the hearing.
Many people may be present at the child custody hearing. Witnesses at the child custody hearing are the child's parents. Other relatives may also be present at the hearing. In some cases, a judge may ask a social worker or a case worker to write a report about the specifics of the child custody case, highlighting who is seeking custody. The social worker may also visit the child's home in order to gather firsthand evidence. Interviews with other people present in the house, such as siblings or stepparents, may also occur.
The judge may also appoint a lawyer who will talk to the child in order to find out what the child desires. The lawyer will then report the findings to the judge. At the hearing, each parent will testify. The judge will also read the caseworker's report and, if required, the judge may also speak to the child in private. This is done in order to understand what the child wants and usually, in the best interest of the child, none else is present at that time. Then the judge will make a decision.
Source: NYCourts.Gov, "The Custody/Visitation Hearing," Accessed April 3, 2015