We fight to make your life better… for you and your kids
The Law Office of Sean Musgrove has the experience you need in a child custody case. Our goal is to eliminate the tug of war with the other parent. How do we do that? By seeking the best orders possible so you can have quality parenting time with your child. The best orders in a custody and visitation case are clear, well thought out, and give predictability so you can focus on your relationship with your child.
Here are some key “child custody and visitation” concepts that you should be familiar with before you go to Court:
What’s Best for the Child In California, the first thing that any person seeking custody needs to realize is that the Court, when making custody orders, always looks at what is best for the child. The Court does not consider how you feel about the custody arrangement; the Court has a duty to protect the child.
In deciding custody and visitation of the child, the Court asks what is in the child’s best interest?
In California Family Code Section 3020, the California State Legislature has stated that “it is the public policy of this state to assure that children have frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage, or ended their relationship, and to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities of child rearing in order to effect this policy, except where the contact would not be in the best interest of the child, as provided in Section 3011.”
This means that the child should have as much time with both parents, unless there is a reason that contact with one or both of the parents is not in the best interest of the child.
Again, this is a real important concept. Frequent and continuing contact means that a child should have as much time as possible on a continuous basis with each parent. If you are perceived to be preventing frequent and continuous contact fromn occurring, the Court may be consider your case to be one of parental alienation.
If one parent is trying to keep a parent away from another parent for no good reason or in violation of Court orders, that could be considered parental alienation, and this can be a form of psychological child abuse.
Therefore, if you are a parent who is trying to protect a child from a parent who is very bad for the child, you need to make sure that you are not being set up by the other parent to be an alienator.
Alternatively, if you are being kept out of a child’s life by the other parent, it is important that you document all actions in the form of email and/or text messages. In either scenario, you cannot go to Court and ask for something without admissible evidence. It is best to hire an attorney to represent you.
When Contact Is Not in the Best Interest of the Child
California Family Code section 3020 allows for parents to explain why the other parent is not fit to have visitation or custody of the child.
When arguing this point, it is important not to just mudsling and slander the other parent. That will almost certainly backfire and the other parent could actually gain more time! It is important that you provide the Court with the evidence needed “to hang their hat on” to make a finding in your favor.
However, if you have valid concerns that the other parent is an alcoholic, a drug addict, a sexual addict or predator, generally incompetent where the child could not be safe in their care, mentally ill, or any other thing that would make them an unfit parent, it is important to provide evidence along with your concerns.
If the other parent is making accusations about you and why you are not fit to be a parent, it is absolutely crucial for you and your child to present evidence so that the Judge will understand your position. If you do not present competent evidence, then your case may fall on deaf ears, or worse, your whole case can backfire on you.
Mediation for Child Custody
When parents have a dispute regarding custody and visitation, Courts in California will send the parents to “mediation.” The rules that govern this are the California Rules of Court, Rule 5.210. Essentially, you will be talking to a licensed counselor who will try to get you to come to an agreement. However, if you cannot come to an agreement, they will often make recommendations to the Court in the form of a mediation report that the Court may or may not choose to follow.
When going to mediation, it is important that you are prepared properly and know what to say and what not to say.
How Do I deal with a bad mediation report?
The Court wants to know that they are making a good decision based on the facts that are presented to them. If you have a bad mediation report that is unfavorable to you it is important that you present competent evidence to show why the mediator report is wrong. This takes skill and experience to do, and an attorney should be at least consulted if not retained.
What should I expect at mediation?
Mediation is done through a mediator. A mediator usually has the following qualifications:
- Normally has a graduate degree;
- Should know how the family Court system works; and
- Should have information about resources in your community that may be helpful to you.
What does a mediator do?
A family law mediator should do the following:
- Listen to both sides.
- Be neutral.
- Help both sides look at different options.
- Help both sides decide when the children will be with one parent or the other.
- Help both sides decide how you will work to make future decisions about the children.
- Help both sides learn to always consider the best way to protect the children’s safety and welfare.
How do I act around a mediator?
When in mediation with a mediator, you should do the following:
- Treat the other parent with respect. You will both get a chance to explain your ideas. Behaving badly could go against you.
- Listen to what both he mediator and the other parent are saying to try to find workable solutions.
- Always put the children first.
If you are perceived badly by the mediator, you may give the wrong impression. The wrong impression can make the mediator to make the wrong recommendation, which can become the wrong order for your children. Ultimately, you and your child lose.
It is really important to hire an attorney who can put you and your concerns in the best light.
How do I get the best orders possible?
To get the best orders from the Court, your request for orders to the Court should be very clear as to what you want. That means they should be written carefully and should cover a wide range of circumstances. Remember, if you do not ask the Court for something, the Court cannot normally grant it.
For instance, you may have the child on a 50/50 timeshare. This timeshare may be set up to be one week on and one week off, throughout the entire year.
But what happens if you do not ask for time with the children during Christmas and the week that you have them is not Christmas? You may never have Christmas with your child again if the other parent does not cooperate in modifying the schedule.
Do not panic if you find yourself in this situation. You can ask the Court for “Holiday Orders” in a request for orders. Better yet, if you have not gone to Court yet, make sure your initial orders request “Holiday Orders.” They are frequently and routinely granted, so long as it is in the child’s best interest.
**Holiday parenting time is covered under both custody and visitation requests on an Request for Order (aka RFO.)
Get detailed orders from the Court
The best orders possible are usually the orders with the most details and covers the widest variety scenarios because the request for orders were specific and detailed. It is best to consult with an attorney to make sure your request for orders are properly drafted so that they become a reality for you.