We all know that it is a bad idea to keep an unhappy marriage together for the sake of the children. Living in a home where the adults are disrespectful, unkind, and abusive to each other is not good for children of any age. However, once you have made the decision to end the marriage, it is important that you consider what is best for the children and try to make the division of the household as easy as possible for them.
Trying to Work it Out Between You
In California, most divorcing couples with children are required to go to mediation with a trained counselor to work out a plan for custody and visitation without involving lawyers or the court. This is successful for some couples, but not for everyone. If you feel like you are being steamrolled into an agreement that is not in the best interest of your children, you and your attorney can work out a better deal with your ex and his lawyer, or you can go to a judge.
If there are issues of drug or alcohol use or domestic violence, you can go directly to a judge for a custody order.
How the Judge Will Decide a Custody Case
Custody arrangements are supposed to be made in the best interest of the children—not for the convenience of parents or to allow one parent to get revenge over the other. When considering what is best for the child, the judge is bound by the laws of California to consider:
- The age of the child. Primary custody of infants and young children is usually given to the parent who was the main caregiver before the divorce. Older children may be included in the decision-making process.
- The health of the child. If the child has health concerns or special needs, the judge will determine which parent is better equipped to handle them. This often means leaving the child in the family home with the parent who is staying.
- The emotional ties between the parents and the child. The judge will determine this by talking to the parents and the children. If one parent is unaware of the child's needs, schedules, friends, and preferences, it is likely an indication that they are not emotionally connected to the child.
- The ability of the parents to care for the child. If one parent works long hours, travels for work, or is simply ill-equipped to provide what the child needs, the judge will find in favor of the parent who is able to adequately care for the child.
- Any history of family violence or substance abuse. If one parent has been abusive to the other—even if the abuse did not extend to the children—or has a substance abuse problem, the judge will not grant custody to that parent.
- The child's ties to school, home, and his or her community. If one parent is planning to move out of the community after the divorce, the judge may determine that removing the child from his school and neighborhood will be too disruptive and grant primary custody to the parent who is staying.
Your lawyer will provide evidence to support your wishes for custody of your children. This may include testimony from family members and doctors, as well as restraining orders, criminal records, and other legal documents.
What Are the Court's Options for Awarding Custody?
The judge has several options for awarding custody. She could award joint custody, meaning the child will live with each parent for part of the week, or she could award sole custody to one parent and give the other parent visitation rights. Visitation options include:
- Scheduled visitation. In most cases, a detailed schedule for visitation dates and times is established by the court. Parents are bound by law to abide by the schedule.
- Reasonable visitation. If the parents get along very well, the judge might issue open-ended visitation orders that allow the parents to work things out between them.
- Supervised visitation. If the children's safety and well-being with the visiting parent are in question, his time with the children will be supervised by another adult or professional organization.
- No visitation. If it is not in the best interest of the children to have any contact with the non-custodial parent, he will not be granted any access to the children.
Your lawyer will help you argue for a visitation plan that works for you and benefits your children.
In Marin County, Nathan Law Offices Is Here for You
Fighting for custody of your children is not something you want to do without the help of an experienced child custody attorney in California. Paul Nathan and his staff will fight hard to make sure you receive the custody and support you're hoping for. Fill out the contact form on this page to connect with us today.