How Can I Prepare Myself for a Custody Battle?
If you would like to retain custody of your child, there are several steps that you can take to improve your chances of doing so. Also, there are some key bits of information about the California divorce process that will keep you better informed and more prepared for the custody proceedings.
Showing that you are well established and able to provide for your children is important.
In order to get the most knowledgeable and experienced help possible, you are going to want to choose the best family law attorney that you can afford. A great attorney can be the difference between getting what you want or nothing at all. Don't cut any corners when your children's future is at stake!
Keep a journal. It may sound cliché, but there are some things, if documented and brought to your attorney, that could greatly benefit your chances of retaining child custody. You are going to want to keep track of:
- How much time you spend with the children.
- What activities you are involved in with them.
- How much time the other parent spends with the children.
- Note the time the other parent is gone, when they go to work and come home, and when they travel out of town.
- Note any negative remarks, threats, arguments, profanities, shouting, or any other behavior that would impact custody.
You're going to want to try your best to recollect the past six months or year as well. Write down everything you've done and everything the other parent has done. Be prepared to show the court that you are an active and involved caretaker of the children and that you deserve custody of your child. It might also be a good idea to bring photos or a photo album of your child showing they are happy in your care.
Showing that you are well established and able to provide for your children is important. Make sure to make the court aware of the fact that you:
- Have a job and a place to live.
- Have already been preparing for school and child care.
- Have community ties through extracurricular activities, volunteering at school, involvement at your church or synagogue, neighborhood, friends, etc.
You should also be prepared to show why the other parent is not capable of properly providing for the children. Find people who will testify about problems with your spouse's parenting and inadequacies that would make them the improper custodial parent.
Do not leave the family residence until you have a custody arrangement in place.
If you are planning to move out without the children, then do not leave the family residence until you have a court order, or at least a written agreement that sets the custody arrangement to start when you leave the home.
Full Custody and Over-Night Visitation
Custody and visitation are decided based on what is in the child's best interest. In most cases, it is best for the child to have strong relationships with both parents. If there is nothing negative about your ex, there's no reason he or she can't have overnight visitation.
Preference of the Child and Custody
While children may have an opinion as to which parent they want to reside with, children don't get to decide - the decision puts too much pressure on them. However, once a child has reached an age where they can make a knowing and intelligent decision as to which parent they would like to live with, the court takes the child's opinion into consideration.
The older the child, the more important his or her opinion is to the court. However, the court can always rule against the child's opinion, if the court finds living with that parent is not in the child's best interest.
Oftentimes, when the child has a stated preference, the court will appoint minor's counsel to interview the child about their preference and to determine how much weight it should be given.
Questions for Your Attorney
As you go through the process to get custody of your child (or children), be sure to ask your attorney the right questions. Here are a few you should pose.
- What factors are important in gaining temporary custody of my children?
- What are the consequences of moving out of my house and giving temporary child custody to the other parent?
- If I lose temporary child custody, what should I do to gain or improve my situation and get a better permanent custody arrangement?
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California Divorce Guide