Secrets of winning child custody in California

I have many clients that come into my office and say they “want custody” of their children.  What does this mean in a California divorce or paternity case? Most often, it doesn’t mean what the client thinks it means.

In California, there are two kinds of custody: physical and legal.  Physical custody involves where your children live.  If they live with both parents, as in most cases, then custody is shared jointly.  In the case where one parent is not involved at all with the children or has domestic violence or substance abuse issues, then one parent may have sole physical custody.  The norm is shared joint physical custody.  Legal custody involves which parent has the right to make the decisions about your children’s health, education and welfare.  Again, this is generally joint except in the instances mentioned above.

What most clients are talking about when they say they want custody is the parenting plan.  This is the schedule of when your children will be with which parent.  I am often asked what a “normal” schedule is, but the reality is that schedules vary as much people do!  The important part of creating a parenting plan is to keep your children’s needs in the forefront of your mind.  They are adjusting, too, and the transition is difficult on everyone.

Second, be reasonable.  You may despise your ex, but that doesn’t give you the right to cut him or her out of your children’s lives – they remain a parent even though they are no longer your spouse.  A judge will frown on an unreasonable request made for no good reason.

Third, pick your battles.  Remember the adjustment period?  Well, that often translates into dropping grades, acting out, misbehaving, sleep problems, and overall a difficult mood or behavior from your children.  This doesn’t mean it’s all your ex’s fault, and it’s not your fault, either.  It’s just a natural part of the process.  Now, if your spouse is acting inappropriately, such as not properly feeding or dressing/grooming your children before school or harming them, then you should see the judge immediately.  But normal acting out in a divorce is, well, normal.

Finally, remember that it will pass.  At some point the custody fight will end and you will settle into a routine.  I mean, you can fight until your children are 18, but do you really have the time, money and energy to do that to yourself and to your children?  The sooner you can get to that normalcy, the better for everyone.

Escaping domestic violence and abuse

A relationship where domestic violence and abuse exists can be a nightmare that appears to be inescapable.  Here are some tips to get out.

Domestic Violence Restraining Orders

Violence in a marriage is a serious issue faced by many spouses.  In the event your spouse hurts you or puts you in danger (note: this does not have to be physical violence but can include verbal threats and harassment, among many other things), then you should call 911 immediately.  If you are in a car, drive to the nearest police station. The most important first action in this case is to ensure your safety and the safety of your children.  In many cases, the police officers can issue an Emergency Protective Order that can force your spouse out of the home for a few days, and set you for a court hearing within a few days time.

Once you have the protective order and are safe, consider having at least a consultation with a qualified attorney.  You do not want to go into court not knowing what the judge is looking for and/or not being able to prove your case and having the restraining order denied when it should not be.  Even if you cannot afford to hire an attorney, your safety and the safety of your children is worth at least a consultation with a lawyer who will give you REAL advice and not just demand a high retainer to help you. There are also many resources in each county to offer you assistance with paperwork or help to find a safe place to stay.  Check with your local county resources.