Fighting over child custody can be so emotionally draining that most of us wouldn’t wish a child custody battle on anyone. If you are a parent who is facing or anticipating a child custody battle, you understand firsthand the amount of stress involved, especially if you’re not sure what the future holds.
Even if you’re not the parent who is in “battle mode,” it’s important that you are fully prepared when you go to court and that you know what you want in regard to child custody. If you have to fight for your parental rights, you’ll need to convince the court that you are the best parent for the job. Follow these tips to prepare your case and increase the chances that you’ll achieve the positive outcome that you’re shooting for.
Educate Yourself on California’s Custody Laws
The first thing you want to do is fully prepare yourself on California’s child custody laws. You can find a wealth of information about child custody online – just Google “child custody California Courts.” As you get educated on child custody, be sure to research:
- Child custody
- Legal custody
- Physical custody
- Sole custody
- Joint custody
- Child support
If you are seeking “sole physical custody,” be prepared for court. If the other parent is seeking sole custody as well, or if he or she wants “joint physical custody,” you will most likely end up in court. In these situations, child custody battles often ensue because neither parent is willing to budge and reach an agreement. In effect, a judge has to step in and decide for them. If your child’s other parent is a loving parent who is not abusive and they don’t have a substance abuse problem, it’s important to be aware that if they are seeking joint custody and it’s in your child’s best interests, a judge may award it.
If you’re determined to seek sole custody even though the other parent is a good person and can provide for your child, it’s important to consider reaching a compromise instead of going to court. However, if there are concerns about financial stability, substance abuse, mental illness, domestic violence, child neglect, etc., then you can certainly prepare to go to court and seek sole custody.
Tips for a Successful Custody Case
After you’ve researched California’s child custody laws, hire an experienced child custody attorney to represent you. It’s very important that you do not take for granted that the judge will automatically choose you. The judge’s role is to make a decision that is in your child’s best interests; therefore, you want to demonstrate that you share the same focus as the judge. Here are some things that will help support your effort:
Address your living arrangements. If you want to win custody of your child, make sure your living situation aligns with that goal. If you’re sleeping on a friend’s couch, or staying with a boyfriend or girlfriend, or sharing a house with a bunch of college-age roommates, that’s not going to sit well with the judge. To demonstrate that you’re the fittest parent, you need to show that you’re living in a space with plenty of room for your child or children.
If your spouse is living in the family home with the children, and you’re living in a motel, or crashing at your friend’s house, sleeping in their garage or attic, you need to make changes fast. Also, if the children are living with your spouse in the family home, a good idea is to find suitable accommodations nearby. Bear in mind that family courts prefer to maintain the status quo when it comes to children, so the less their lives need to be disrupted, the better.
Stay on top of your children’s lives. Want to show the court that you’re the better fit? Stay informed about your children’s lives. Know their teachers’ names. Know their school and extracurricular activity schedules. Know their best friend’s name, their likes and dislikes, any medications that they are on, and their interests. If you truly want to be the primary care provider of your children, demonstrate to the judge that you know every detail about their lives.
Be cooperative with your spouse. This may seem counterintuitive, especially during a child custody battle, but it’s very important that you are willing to support and facilitate an ongoing relationship between your children and their other parent. Likewise, it will not benefit you if you badmouth the other parent in front of your children or try to interfere with visitation. In the judge’s eyes, children do best when they have frequent and ongoing contact with both parents, not just one.
When a Parent is Granted Primary Custody
In California, visitation is called “time-share.” If the children end up living with one parent more than the other, then the parent who has the children less than half the time will usually be awarded generous visitation with the children. Since each family’s situation is unique, visitation orders can vary widely. It all depends on what is in the best interests of the children, the parent’s individual situations, etc. For example, a father may be a commercial airline pilot, or he may travel frequently for work, and the visitation schedule would have to accommodate his work schedule.
Are you a parent who is getting a divorce and anticipating a child custody battle? Or, do you need legal representation in another child custody matter? For the professional legal assistance you need, contact Claery & Hammond, LLP to meet with an attorney for free.