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10 Truths About Custody And Visitation For California Dads

Dads facing divorce or those who have never been married are often uncertain about their custody and visitation rights, and there is a lot of misinformation out there to contend with. The best way to protect your parental rights in a difficult situation is to work with an attorney who is experienced in helping fathers obtain and maintain custody. Your attorney can advise you about steps to take—and what to avoid—to give yourself the best opportunity to obtain the custody and visitation arrangements you want.

Courts make decisions based on the individual facts of each case, so the “rules” for custody are not cut and dried. However, with over 300 years of collective experience handling custody cases and related issues, the team at Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC has observed ten truths about custody and visitation that often take dads in California by surprise.

1. The Child’s Best Interests are the Key Issue

Parents often focus on gaining a fair and reasonable amount of time to spend with their children. While this self-centered approach is natural, it won’t help you gain the custody or visitation plan that you want because legally speaking, your desires are irrelevant. What matters is the best interests of your child. When your attorney can demonstrate how your goals serve your child’s best interests, you are in a much better position to achieve those goals.

2. Legal and Physical Custody are Decided Separately

Legal and physical custody are different issues and plans for these types of custody are settled independently. Legal custody involves authority to make decisions about a child’s education, medical care, and other aspects of upbringing. By contrast, physical custody determines where the child lives. It is quite common for parents to share legal custody even if only one parent holds physical custody.

3. Gender is Irrelevant but Parenting Roles Matter

Courts do not favor either mothers or fathers in custody decisions. However, courts will look at how each parent interacts with the child, and the degree to which they engage in parenting duties such as getting  a child ready for school or putting them to bed. To avoid disrupting the child’s life too much, the court may be inclined to favor a parent that spends significantly more time in caretaking duties.

4. Joint Physical Custody Can Involve Unequal Amounts of Time

Parents can share physical custody of a child without necessarily dividing parenting time in an even 50/50 split. The law requires parents who share physical custody to each spend a “significant” period of time with the child.

5. Parents Can Create Their Own Plans for Custody

Parents do not have to rely on a judge to come up with a plan for parenting time but can create their own plan to submit for approval. In fact, parents are encouraged to develop their own plans and if they are reasonable and protect the child’s best interests, the court is likely to approve.

6. Bad Behavior Can Be Used Against You

If you have a history of threatening violent behavior, ignoring schedules, interfering with the other parent’s relationship with the child, alcohol abuse, or any conduct that could harm your child’s health or wellbeing, those factors will make it harder for you to gain custody. Even the visitation time that you are granted may be subject to supervision.

7. Custody Impacts Child Support Obligations

Your schedule for custody and visitation will be calculated into a custodial timeshare to be used to help calculate child support obligations. The more time you spend with your child, the less you are expected to pay or the more you could be eligible to receive.

8. Biological Relationship is Not Required for Custody

Although biological parents often have an easier time gaining custody, others who have served in a parental role may also have standing to ask the court for custody, including grandparents, stepparents, partners of deceased parents, aunts, uncles, and others. So if a child’s mother has passed away, the father should not assume that he will automatically receive custody.

9. A Parent with Custody Needs Permission to Move the Child More Than 50 Miles Away

Even when one parent has sole physical and legal custody, they cannot move a child more than 50 miles away without obtaining approval from the court or from the other parent. Relocation of a custodial parent often provides grounds for courts to switch custody.

10. Final Custody is Never Really Final

Custody determinations are supposed to meet a child’s best needs, and arrangements that meet those needs may change over time. When there has been a significant change in circumstances, a parent may ask the court to modify custody and visitation orders.

Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC Can Help You Gain the Right Custody and Visitation Arrangements

While custody orders can be modified, you must show that something has changed to justify the modification. That means it is important to invest the time and effort into obtaining the right custody arrangements at the very beginning, and advocacy and guidance from an experienced attorney can make that happen. Contact the Certified Family Law Specialists at Holstrom, Block & Park, APLC today to learn how we can help you reach your custody goals.

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The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.