If you want to request child custody orders from the court it is important to understand what the court looks at in order to determine what arrangement will work best for your children.
The court takes the position that the orders are for your children and what is in their best interest. The Family Code gives the court broad discretion when determining what is in the best interest of children. The courts have also decided that as a matter of law, continuing and frequent contact with both parents is in the best interest of children so long as visitation with one parent or the other would not be detrimental to a child.
If both parents are basically decent people and do not abuse drugs, alcohol, or engage in domestic violence, the court looks more at the practical aspects of the situation when making a custody arrangement. For example, if both parents live in the same city, and both parents can take the kids to school etc., then the court will be more open to allowing a more equal time share with both parents. The court may allow either parent to have the children in their care while the other parent is at work or unavailable to take the kids.
If either parent does abuse drugs or has engaged in domestic violence, the court may order supervised visits only. In many cases the visits would be at Sierra Vista Children's Center. The supervised visits are typically once per week for one hour and must be arranged by both parents by appointment. There is also a fee involved. If either parent has PERSONAL KNOWLEDGE based on PROVABLE FACTS that the other parent is abusing drugs, then that parent can make a request to the court in their motion to have the other parent drug tested. If the court orders the drug test, then the other parent must submit to a hair follicle test. Hair follicle testing can trace back drugs in the system for approximately 90 days.
Remember your children are human beings with thoughts, emotions, and opinions. Everything you do they absorb and everything you do directly affects who they are and who they will become. Using children and the court system to get back at the other parent is absolutely bad news. Your kids need love and a sense of stability and support from both parents. So while it is your job as a parent to protect your kids from detrimental and harmful situations, it is also your job to make sure the case is about what is best for them and not about getting the upper hand in your family law case.
Listed here are some factors the court looks at when determining what is best for children in a child custody case:
- The history of the situation (what have the parents been doing and is it working for the kids—are they thriving?).
- Is there drug abuse or domestic violence?
- Where to the parties live in relation to each other?
- What is the availability of either parent to care for the kids?
- What are the work schedules of the parents?
- Who has taken most of the responsibility for ensuring the kids do well in school?
- Who is ensuring that the children's health is being taken care of?
- Which parent is more likely to facilitate an open and continuing relationship with the other parent?
- Is either parent engaging in conduct that would tend to alienate the children from the other parent?
A common question that comes up in our office is…
Doesn't the court always side with the mother?
The answer to this question is NO! While it is true that gender bias sometimes does occur, the reality is that the court system and the law has progressed substantially over the years. The court has found that CONTINUING AND FREQUENT CONTACT WITH BOTH PARENTS is in the best interest of children.
Sometimes there is a perception that mother's have the upper hand in court because in many cases they are designated as primary care taker. This result has more to do with the history of the situation than it does with any gender bias. If a mother has been the one who has been home with the kids most of their lives and the dad has been the one who has worked most of the time, then the simple fact that people split doesn't mean everything changes. If the mom is still at home and dad is still going to work, then the situation doesn't change much, at least initially. However, the court will take into consideration the change resulting from a split. Remember the court wants both parents to have continuing and frequent contact with BOTH PARENTS. So both parents will be accommodated and they will both be allowed liberal visitation with their children within the boundaries of practical circumstances.
In Stanislaus and San Joaquin County both parents are required to attend mediation on the date of their court hearing. Your attorney can go into mediation with you to assist in communication and to offer you advice on what to focus on and how to handle the procedural aspects of the court system. It is recommended by our office to have an attorney represent you in court at your child custody hearing. Your kids are too important to risk going it alone.
Remember, as parents you can always come up with a plan of your own. You do not need the court to decide if you can come to an agreement. If you have an agreement for our child custody arrangement, we can prepare a stipulated order for you and you don't even need to go to court.