Summation or Closing Statements in Child Custody Trials

There are various elements involved in ensuring the best results froma child custody case. Closing statements are one of the unique and valuable opportunities that child custody lawyers use when attempting to present their side of the story to the judge. Because managing a case with children involved can be particularly tricky, a summation or closing statement can provide a memorable way to draw all the facts of the case together into something that the judge can use to make their decision. Otherwise known as a “summation”, a closing statement, when performed by an effective child custody lawyer or divorce attorney, can sweep away any pre-existing feelings that the judge had, and replace their thoughts with a new insight into a custody case and why their clients desires are in the best interests of the child or children.  After all, that is what a child custody and parenting trial is all about.   

To some degree, a closing statement is similar to an opening statement. For instance, in both the opening and closing statements, the attorneys for both parties will have the opportunity to directly address the judge, and “discuss” the case, giving them a framework for understanding the role of each party in the case, and how the evidence should be considered. However, a closing statement can involve arguments that allow the child custody attorney to make their point more effectively, whereas an opening statement requires the lawyers for both sides to stick to the facts. Though arguments can be made about the evidence and how it was presented to help sway the judge or undermine the other party’s case, it’s worth noting that there are rules to follow.

In a summation, parties, if they are representing themselves or child custody attorneys can only discuss evidence that was admitted during the trial.  The child custody lawyer should set forth their theme, that also should have been introduced in the opening statement if one was made.  The child custody lawyer should not bring up something that was ruled as inadmissible following an objection, for instance. Closing arguments may attempt to persuade the court that it should rule in the favor of the party by telling a story that the evidence allows.  However, they’re not necessarily intended to help the attorney persuade the judge to make decisions that aren’t based on evidence.

When attempting to present the best interests of the child in a way that supports their party’s case, child custody lawyers or divorce attorneys must decide how to use the evidence presented as effectively as possible. Without simply listing the witnesses, or paraphrasing documents, attorneys will need to think about repeating quotes, or drawing attention to specific testimonies that might be relevant to their case. The closing statement should be a concise insight into what happened throughout the case, highlighting the key areas of the trial, and using the admitted evidence to bring more credibility to an argument. Child custody lawyers need to determine carefully what evidence they should be emphasizing during their closing argument. They should outline important questions that might have been posed throughout the trial, and in their opening statement, to emphasize that the key evidence highlights their conclusion of what is in the best interests of the child or children.

The point of any trial, whether for child custody purposes, or otherwise, is to help the judge see the truth of the situation at hand. This means that during a closing statement, a child custody attorney should focus on pointing out how the evidence and facts show that their argument is correct. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean simply showing the “good points” of a case, and ignoring any problems that might detract from the impact of the argument. It’s important to identify and explain problems with a case, otherwise the other side’s attorney is sure to use those issues against you. A child custody lawyer or divorce lawyer needs to convince the jury that their argument is correct, even with the presence of a few key issues.

Making the most of a closing statement requires the attorney to convince their judge or trier of fact that although they represent one side of the argument – they aren’t ignoring the other side of the case.  Child custody attorneys can attempt to present themselves as a conveyer of facts and evidence – searching for the truth just as the judge. That way, the judge begins to see that the custody attorney simply presented the facts as objectively as possible, to show that there’s only one possible conclusion. Additionally, presenting an effective closing statement requires child custody lawyer and divorce attorneys to appear as natural and fluid as possible. That means that ideally lawyers should not read their argument from a sheet of paper. Attorneys in a child custody case need to try and connect with the judge on the behalf of their clients, through engaging them in an almost conversational manner.  The point of a child custody case is to show that your client’s position is in the best interests of the child.  Often, a soft, gentle tone is beneficial, but outrage can be appropriate at times. Big movements, and talking while you maneuver around the court aren’t recommended.

A closing statement is a child custody lawyer’s last chance to really connect with the court, and ensure that their client has the best possible chances of success. The aim is to leave something memorable in the mind of the court, by referring back to their opening statement, and reminding the judge that their decision is critical – not just for the legal system, but for the impact it will have on their client. Often, this means that it can be effective to end a summation with a memorable sentence, phrase, or anecdote that the judge can consider as they move to make their decision. Like an opening statement, a closing statement is a chance for attorneys to re-list the facts, with a focus on what happened during the course of a trial.  A summation should develop the them that was also introduced at trial. The aim is to show that all of the elements of the trial – including the issues that might have stood against your client, point to the outcome you want to achieve.

To learn more about closing statements, or the process involved with a child custody trial, read through our blog posts, or contact me, Mr. Darren M. Shapiro at your earliest convenience. You can get in touch with me either through our online form, or via phone call to 516-333-6555 to schedule a free half-hour initial consultation.

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