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Why Custody Cases End Up In Court

A courtroom is one of the most difficult places to establish terms for parenting a child. When custody decisions must be made in court, it will be impossible for the judge to take into account all the nuances of the child’s relationship with each parent or understand scheduling details that can make all the difference for busy families. The plans for decision-making and living arrangements will be impersonal because there simply is not time for judges to sit down and learn every facet of your family dynamics.

Decisions made in the courtroom are not only less tailored than plans developed through negotiation or mediation, but the process of reaching the decisions is often much more lengthy, contentious, and expensive. Despite all the incentives for parents to work with their attorneys to establish custody plans out of court, many custody disagreements between parents continue until resolved through a full trial. Why is that? And what can you do to avoid this less-than-ideal outcome? With over 300 years of combined experience handling custody and other hotly-contested family law issues, the team at Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC, presents some factors to consider.

Emotions Run High

When parents separate, they are often terrified at the prospect of being pushed out of their children’s lives and missing the opportunities to connect with them as they grow. Any time apart can suddenly seem like too much. And in their emotional anguish, parents often tend to put their own emotional needs ahead of those of their children. Human nature is hard to overcome, and human beings have a natural instinct favoring self-preservation.

For this reason, parents often want to dig in and fight for every possible moment of parenting time they can get from a custody schedule—even if their work schedule would make it impossible for them to actually spend all that parenting time with the child. They fight because they can’t stand the thought of losing.

Inflammatory Legal Tactics

Another reason custody cases often end up in court is that many times when parents say they want to fight for custody, their attorneys are only too ready to lead the attack. Attorneys can get swept up in the drama, attack the other parent’s choices and actions to make their client look good by comparison, and trigger emotional reactions that rebound destructively back and forth, generating legal fees but not resolving any outstanding issues. Many attorneys have yet to learn that advocacy does not require animosity, and that these inflammatory tactics are counter-productive. Moreover, these emotionally reactive actions destroy family relationships that the child will need as life moves forward.

It is possible to achieve custody objectives through strategic use of discovery and negotiation, achieving parenting time in a practical schedule that is custom tailored for the lives of both parents as well as the child. But you need to take a reasoned approach rather than an irrationally emotional one to succeed outside of court, and many attorneys lack the discipline to stay focused on their clients’ goals.

For Some Parents, Custody is About Money

Custody issues not only trigger emotional responses but they also hit another sensitive issue: money. The more parenting time allocated to a parent, the less their child support obligations will be. This situation also causes some parents to refuse to negotiate when it comes to custody. They view the fight as a battle for their financial security.

One Parent May Be Abusive or Narcissistic

Sometimes parents want the judge to make all the decisions in court because they do not even want to attempt to negotiate with the other parent. If one parent tends to be a bully or has a history of abusive behavior, it is only natural to want to avoid contact. However, attorneys can often negotiate resolutions without the need for parents to interact directly.

One parent may be convinced that the other poses a danger to the child, and they don’t want that parent to have any custody or unsupervised visitation. Since it’s unlikely that the other parent will voluntarily accept this, taking the matter to court may be the eventual outcome. However, when faced with overwhelming evidence of past wrongdoing, parents are sometimes reasonable, and may agree to accept an arrangement with supervised visitation to avoid the risk that a judge might deny visitation entirely. The bottom line is that if you want to avoid the conflict, drama, expense and delays of a trial, it is worth at least attempting to negotiate with the assistance of an effective family law attorney.

Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC Advocates Effectively for Custody Goals In and Out of Court

Knowing why so many custody cases end up in court can help you avoid the anxiety and uncertainty of taking custody decisions to the judge for decision. If you can negotiate even part of a parenting plan, that can help secure the right arrangements for the future and help reduce some of the negative aspects of a trial situation.

The team at Holstrom, Block & Parke understands how to achieve goals for clients through all types of methods, from mediation and negotiation through court trials and appeals. For a confidential consultation to learn how we could assist with a custody matter, schedule an appointment today.

Can A Mother Lose Custody For Not Having A Home In California?

When you love your children, the thought of losing custody of them can be the most frightening thing you can imagine. There are stories about courts in California taking away custody for a wide variety of reasons, so if you are currently without a home or you are in danger of losing your home, it is quite natural to wonder whether that will mean losing custody as well.

There is no simple answer, because decisions about a child’s custody are based on the child’s best interests at the time, and many factors go into assessing what a child’s best interests are. In this post, we will look at how a parent’s housing situation can impact custody.

What is the Parental Situation?

The law presumes that it is in a child’s best interests to spend meaningful time with both parents, so one of the first questions to consider with regard to custody is whether the child has two legal parents who are capable of providing physical and/or legal custody. If a person acting as a parent has not established legal parentage in some way, they have no right to legal custody.

If there is another legal parent but that parent has a history of domestic violence, drug use, or alcohol abuse, or that parent is in jail, then the parent with housing issues will not face a solid custody challenge from the other parent. However another family member or Child Protective Services could request a change in custody based on the housing issues.

What is the Reason for the Lack of a Home?

In many cases, it is not so much the lack of stability in a housing situation but the reason behind the housing problem that would provide grounds for a mother or father to lose custody. If a parent got into debt and lost their home because of a medical bill or business venture and they are taking steps to rebuild their lives, that parent would be less likely to lose custody than a parent who lacks housing because of a long-term problem that could place a child’s safety and wellbeing at risk, such as drug addiction or mental illness.

Is the Child in a Safe and Stable Living Situation?

If a mother or father does not have their own house or apartment but they have a place where they can live with the child in safety and comfort, then the fact that the parent’s name is not on a lease or deed should not be held against them for a custody determination. If the living arrangement provides a child with a clean environment, their own bed, adequate food, and the ability to continue attending the same school and have access to family and friends, then the lack of an official home might not serve as a reason to deprive that parent of custody. However, if the parent is constantly moving from one place to another, living out of a vehicle, or staying with the child in an environment where the child could be at risk of abuse, neglect, or other harm, then it is more likely that the living situation would provide grounds for that parent to lose custody.

If a Loved One is at Risk, Talk to an Attorney

Children deserve a safe home with people who love and care for them. When their parents are capable of providing that care, it makes sense to ensure that they have the opportunity to do so. If a child is at risk because of a dangerous living situation or at risk of wrongfully being removed from a parent, it is a good idea to talk to an attorney to find out how to protect the child’s best interests. 

If one parent is financially successful and has a large home, that parent should not be allowed to deprive the other parent of custody just because their financial situation does not provide as many material advantages. However, when a parent’s housing difficulties puts a child at risk of physical, emotional, or mental harm, then it is time to take action to protect the child, and a change of custody may be required to accomplish that.

Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC Fights for the Right Custody Determinations

Whether a parent or grandparent is seeking to gain custody during a divorce or trying to modify custody arrangements years later, the dedicated team at Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC is prepared to fight for the outcome that supports the child’s best interests. We have over 300+ years of collective experience, and we are ready to put our knowledge to work for you. To discuss how we could assist, just schedule a consultation.

Reasons A Judge Will Change Custody California

Judges work hard to ensure that custody determinations they create or approve truly serve a child’s best interests. For that reason, you usually need to show that circumstances have altered in some way if you want the court to change an existing custody arrangement in California. In some cases, however, an amendment in custody can be justified even if there is not a change in circumstances when you can demonstrate that a custody arrangement was based on incorrect assumptions or that it simply is not serving a child’s best needs.

It is important to remember that focus on custody decisions is on what is best for the child, but a skilled attorney can often show how a parent’s goals align with the child’s needs. Judges can amend custody in California for a variety of reasons, but here are some of the most common.

The Child’s Needs Have Changed

A custody arrangement that met the child’s needs at one point in time may be much less effective at meeting those needs as the child matures. If a child has special educational needs, for instance, one parent might have time or training to help address those needs, or one parent might live near a school with a special program that can keep the child’s educational progress on track.

Changes in the needs of the child might involve medical issues that one parent is better equipped to cope with. Or if the existing custody plan puts the child with one parent the majority of the time, the child may need a plan that allows more time with the other parent. Every child has unique needs, and people’s needs tend to change over time, so it is not surprising that changes in a child’s needs could necessitate an alteration in custody plans.

A Parent’s Ability to Provide Care Has Changed

Different work schedules and changes in job responsibilities can cut into the time one parent may have available to provide care, so this is frequently a reason judges approve a change in custody. A parent’s ability to serve as a responsible caregiver may also have been negatively impacted in some way. Sadly, mental illness or substance abuse could render a parent unable to provide appropriate care and supervision. When there is evidence that a parent has abused or neglected a child, custody can be changed very quickly, at least on a temporary basis.

One Parent Wants to Relocate

When a parent wants to move to another state or a different region of California, that impacts the child’s life substantially. It can become nearly impossible to continue with an existing custody arrangement. The court cannot prevent a parent from relocating, but a judge can stop the parent from moving the child out of an environment that they are comfortable with if the judge finds that the child’s best interests would be best served by keeping the child in that environment in the sole custody of the other parent.

Relocation is one of the most common reasons courts are asked to change custody.

Parental Alienation

If a parent is trying to damage or destroy a child’s relationship with the other parent, this is known as parental alienation. When there is evidence that a parent is engaging in these tactics, courts can change custody arrangements to preserve the child’s relationship with the other parent. Sometimes, allegations of alienation turn out to be unfounded, and efforts taken to remedy the problem have been out of proportion and potentially harmful to the child. Parental alienation remains a controversial issue.

Both Parents Ask the Court for Changes

Quite often, parents develop a new plan for custody that they believe best serves their needs. It is necessary to receive court approval before changing custody arrangements, so it is a good idea to have an attorney review the plan to ensure that it meets legal requirements and is likely to meet with approval. If parents want to make changes but they are having difficulty negotiating arrangements on their own, an attorney can serve as a mediator or each parent could engage an attorney to negotiate on their behalf.

Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC Can Help You Develop the Right Custody Arrangements

Whether you are establishing custody plans for the first time or want to modify plans that have been in place for a while, guidance and assistance from an experienced attorney can make the process smoother and enable you to achieve the results that work best for your child and for you. At Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC, our Certified Family Law Specialists and associates know a variety of strategies to help you meet your goals for custody. Contact our team today to learn more about the ways we can help.  

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.

What is Legal Custody in California?

When parents live apart, the issues surrounding custody of their children often become very stressful and contentious. It is only natural to want to maintain the connection with your children and to be as much a part of their lives as possible.

With regard to custody in California, parents need to consider both physical and legal custody. Physical custody is what most people think of when they hear the word “custody.” It involves the child’s living arrangements and visitation schedule, often referred to as parenting time.

Legal custody is quite different, but just as important. In this post, we’ll explore what it means to have legal custody in California and how parents can protect their right to legal custody.

Legal Custody Gives You Authority Over Important Decisions in Your Child’s Life

Parents make numerous decisions that affect the course of their children’s lives, often without even realizing it. They decide where their child will go to school, at what age they should receive particular vaccinations, whether their child will attend church, and a host of other issues. Having the right, ability, and authority to make these types of decisions is what constitutes legal custody.

Examples of issues that are included with legal custody include deciding:

  • Where a child should attend daycare
  • Which doctor will be a child’s primary physician
  • Whether a child can participate in contact sports such as football
  • Which school program a child should be enrolled in
  • Whether a child will be allowed to go on a school field trip out of state
  • Which dentist will care for the child’s teeth and what age they should have their first check-up
  • Whether a child needs therapy or counseling, and who they should see
  • How to respond to a disciplinary problem at school
  • Whether a child will attend Sunday School or vacation Bible school
  • What types of medication a child is allowed to receive

Legal custody can involve so many issues that it can be difficult to reconcile for parents who do not cooperate well.

California Often Grants Joint Legal Custody to Parents

Even when physical custody is granted solely to one parent, California courts often share legal custody between parents. In theory, this gives parents an equal say in the important decisions affecting their child’s upbringing. It allows both parents to play a key role in a child’s life. It also should prevent one parent from making a sudden change that the other does not approve of, such as removing the child from the school they’ve attended for years to switch to an experimental alternative program.

Joint legal custody should give parents an equal role in determining their child’s future. As a practical matter, if one parent is determined to have their way, that can either lead to painful conflict or a situation where the other parent is shut out of decision-making.

In a shared legal custody arrangement, your attorney can take steps to protect your parental rights. For instance, you might establish an agreement that gives one parent authority over particular decisions and the other parent authority over other decisions. Or an agreement might specify that certain major decisions must be mutually agreed on while other decisions can be made by the parent who has physical custody of the child at the time. As an example of how that might work, parents would have to agree regarding which school the child attends, but the parent who has the child at the time could make the decision about whether a child could attend a field trip.

When Legal Custody is Granted to One Parent Only

In some situations, courts will grant one parent sole legal custody, as well as sole physical custody. The other parent may have visitation rights, although the visitation may be supervised.

Often when a parent is granted sole legal custody, it is because the court believes the other parent has done something wrong or that the other parent is incapable of making decisions that are in a child’s best interests. If one parent is abusive or mentally unstable and evidence of this is presented to the court, then the other parent is likely to be given sole legal custody. If you are in a situation where you are attempting to co-parent with someone who you believe poses a danger to the child’s wellbeing, or if you are a parent who has been falsely accused of abuse or other misconduct, it is important to work with an attorney who can protect your parental rights and your child’s best interests.

Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC Helps Achieve Your Goals for Legal Custody

The Certified Family Law Specialists and associates at Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC understand how to help you gain legal custody and how to establish arrangements that enable you to exercise decision-making authority effectively in all types of situations. For help with legal custody or any other family law matter, call 855-426-9111 or contact our team online today to schedule a confidential consultation.

Custody Schedules in California—Setting the Right Schedule

Parents in California are often so worried about “getting” custody that they don’t focus enough on the details regarding parenting time. The details of a custody schedule will play a huge role in the lives of the parents and children going forward, so it is crucial to give careful consideration to the process of developing that schedule. Working with an attorney who is experienced in this process and who is willing to take the time to help you iron out the details can make a tremendous difference in your future as a parent.

With over 300 years of collective experience helping parents obtain the right parenting schedules, the team at Holstrom, Block & Parke has seen a wide range of custody schedules built to fit the specific needs of families in different circumstances. Here we explain some of the basics about establishing a custody schedule and give some examples of custody schedules that you can consider as you work to develop your own plan.

Parenting Plans in California

Generally, parenting plans in California address both legal and physical custody. Legal custody refers to the ability to make decisions about a child’s upbringing, so a custody schedule involves physical custody—where the child lives. Parents can share both types of custody or one parent may be granted sole custody. When one parent has sole physical custody, the court will establish an order regarding visitation for the other parent. This could be:

  • Scheduled visitation: The court order establishes dates and times that the child will be with each parent. Scheduled visitation can address holidays, vacations, and special occasions such as birthdays.
  • Open-ended visitation: The court order does not specify a schedule for visitation but allows parents to work this out on their own.
  • Supervised visitation: When the court has concerns about a child’s safety while with the noncustodial parent, the court order might specify the terms for supervising visits with that parent.
  • No visitation: If the court finds that even supervised visitation would put the child at an undue risk of physical or emotional harm, then the order will not allow any parenting time to the noncustodial parent.

So, a custody schedule is needed both in situations where parents share physical custody and in situations where one parent has sole physical custody and the other has parenting time.

Joint Custody Schedules

Some of the most common schedules for parents sharing physical custody are the “alternating weeks” schedule and the “3-4-4-3” schedule. As the names imply, the alternating weeks schedule has a child spending 7 days in one parent’s home and then switching to the other parent’s home for the next 7 days, while the 3-4-4-3 schedule puts a child with one parent for 3 days one week and 4 days the next.

Of course, parents are free to develop their own schedules, and just because parents have joint physical custody does not mean that they each need to have the child exactly 50% of the time. If one parent works a traditional weekday schedule while the other works 12 hour shifts on weekends, for instance, it might work best for the child to be with one parent from Friday afternoon to Monday morning while the other parent takes the child during the remainder of the week. In a joint custody arrangement, the child is with each parent at least 30% of the time, but parents can get creative about how they want to arrange the time. If the schedule provides a safe and secure atmosphere for the child, the court is likely to approve it.

Sole Custody Schedules

Even when the court order does not set a schedule for visitation, it is good for parents to establish a schedule on their own so that both parents and children can feel confident that they will enjoy parenting time on a regular basis. One traditional visitation that still works well for many families is for the child to be with the noncustodial parent one day during the week and every other weekend. While this works well for parents with traditional work schedules and children who are in school or daycare, it is not always the most advantageous in other situations.

For a young child and parents with unpredictable work schedules, it might work to have a standing arrangement that puts the child with the noncustodial parent on that parent’s first day off each week, whenever that happens to fall. It is important to consider childcare arrangements, parents’ work schedules, the child’s schedule, and a host of other factors when setting a parenting plan.

Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC Can Help You Arrangement a Beneficial Custody Schedule

While it is particularly important to establish a workable and advantageous custody schedule when that schedule will become part of the court order, it is helpful to have a schedule that sets expectations in every situation, even when the court allows parents to be flexible. The experienced team at Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC can work with you to consider all the details that will affect your parenting plan and help you develop the right schedule for your needs and the needs of your child. Contact us today to learn more about the ways we can assist with custody and other family law matters.

How a Mother Can Lose a Custody Battle

Custody in California is not the one-sided contest that it used to be. Not so long ago, mothers were presumed to be the best caregivers and custodians, and fathers who wanted custody faced an uphill battle that could prove nearly impossible to win.

Those days are gone. Mothers can and do lose custody battles all the time. When parents do not agree explicitly on custody arrangements for their children–if there are any issues of a parenting plan under dispute–it is vital for both parents to work with an attorney who is prepared to present the best legal arguments to support their goals. Emotional pleas used to carry some weight in custody proceedings, but in the courtroom today, excessive emotion may work against you rather than in your favor.

As experienced custody attorneys, our team has seen numerous situations where poor strategy, foolish behavior, and even simple mistakes have caused a mother to lose in a custody battle. Here are some of the most common mistakes and how you can avoid them.

Making False Accusations

In their attempts to gain or hang onto custody, mothers sometimes resort to falsely accusing the other parent of child abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, or parental alienation. When the other parent’s attorney is able to show that the allegations are false and the mother knew she was making unfounded accusations, this makes her look vicious and unreliable.

While it can be difficult to prove that a parent who is engaged in a custody battle knowingly made false accusations, when an attorney is able to present the evidence persuasively, it can make a tremendous impression on the court. Judges do not like to have someone attempt to trick them, so false accusations can backfire and cause a mother to lose custody.

Child Abuse

Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse from a mother can put her on the losing side of a custody battle. Sometimes parents will allege that their child needs discipline, but the “corrective” actions they take go far beyond what is warranted or safe. Abuse often stems from an inability to control angry impulses. A child who is close at hand—and who is not likely to fight back—can be a convenient scapegoat when a parent is feeling frustrated and out of control. Often, mothers who hit or otherwise abuse their children suffered from the same type of abuse in their own childhoods, and the process seems almost natural.

Violation of Court Orders

Just as judges do not like to be lied to, they also do not like their orders to be ignored. When a court issues an order about anything, from a temporary custody plan to child support to a restraining order, if a mother fails to follow the terms of the order and does not offer a very good excuse for doing so, she can lose a custody battle. Violating a court order shows that someone lacks proper respect for the law and cannot be trusted to follow legal requirements.

Parental Alienation

Mothers often engage in some form of parental alienation tactics—sometimes without even realizing it. Parental alienation involves efforts to damage or destroy a child’s relationship with the other parent. Sometimes, this occurs through actions and language that very subtly send a message that the child is not safe with the other parent or that the other parent does not love them.

Other times, parental alienation involves more obvious actions, such as constantly blaming the other parent for problems, refusing to give the other parent information about the child’s schedule, preventing the child from speaking with the other parent, and removing all evidence of the other parent, including gifts from that parent. Courts take allegations of parental alienation very seriously, so when they are presented with persuasive evidence that a mother is engaging in parental alienation, she can lose custody.

Demonstrating Lack of Fitness in Other Ways

Courts usually want a child to have access to both parents, so they must see serious evidence that a parent is unfit before they will deny custody. Unfortunately, some mothers provide that evidence by making some poor choices. Refusing to seek serious help for a substance abuse problem is probably one of the most common ways a mother can demonstrate that she is not fit to take care of her child. Living with a partner who has a history of domestic violence or child abuse is another was to demonstrate that a mother is not prepared to parent safely.

Mental health issues can cause a mother to lose custody if she does not seek treatment that is sufficient to control the condition. Neglecting a child by leaving the child unattended or placing the child in someone else’s care for extended periods can also provide grounds for losing custody.

Holstrom, Block & Parke Can Help You Succeed in a Custody Battle

Parents who want to obtain and keep custody of their children need to seek advice from an experienced attorney and then follow that advice to the letter. Failure to do so could cause them to give the impression that they are not fit to parent the child, and the other parent could be given full custody for the child’s safety.

At Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC, our team has over 300 collective years of experience helping parents gain the custody arrangements that best meet the needs of their children. For a free, confidential consultation to learn more about how we can help you win a custody battle, contact us today.

How To Get Full Custody Of A Child As A Father in California

The subject of child custody is often a pivotal and deeply emotional point of contention in family law cases. As a father in California, you may wonder if current laws and policies place you at a disadvantage if you want to secure full custody of your child. At Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC, we understand the nuances of this process and the steps that can be most effective in reaching your custody goals.

Understanding Custody Basics in California

Custody matters in California are divided into two main categories: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody refers to the authority to make significant decisions regarding the child's welfare, education, and health, while physical custody pertains to where the child resides. As fathers aim for full custody, it's crucial to grasp that the court's paramount concern is the child's best interests, not the gender of the parent.

Building a Strong Case for Full Custody

To sway the court in favor of granting full custody, fathers must present a compelling case that showcases their ability to serve as the primary and most suitable caregiver for their child. This involves demonstrating that you can provide a stable environment, emotional support, involvement in the child’s daily life, and the ability to meet the child's needs. Documenting your involvement in school activities, medical appointments, and extracurricular events can significantly bolster your position.

Highlighting the Child's Best Interests

The cornerstone of any custody decision in California is the child's best interests. Fathers seeking full custody should focus on how such an arrangement benefits the child, prioritizing the child’s overall well-being above all else. When presenting your case, it's essential to demonstrate how full custody by the father will positively impact the child's life. Consider the following aspects:

  • Providing a More Stable Home Environment: Stability is key in a child's life. Illustrate your ability to provide a consistent routine, a safe living situation, and emotional stability. This can include showing how your home is conducive to the child's needs, your work schedule allows for ample parenting time, and that you have made a commitment to maintaining a structured environment.
  • Better Educational Opportunities: If living with you offers access to superior schools or educational resources, highlight this fact. Discuss the quality of the local school district, the availability of special education programs if needed, or how the child's current academic needs are being met under your care.
  • Stronger Emotional Support System: A nurturing environment is critical for a child's development. Emphasize your role in providing emotional support, understanding, and guidance. This includes your involvement in their extracurricular activities, your understanding of their emotional needs, and how you communicate effectively with them.
  • Health and Safety Considerations: Demonstrate your commitment to the child's physical well-being. This can involve showing that your home is in a safe neighborhood, detailing how you plan to address any medical needs the child has, and ensuring that their daily nutritional and physical activity needs are met.
  • Supporting the Child-Parent Relationship with the Other Parent: It's vital to show the court that you encourage a healthy relationship between your child and their other parent. Explain how you plan to facilitate regular communication and visits, your willingness to cooperate on parenting matters, and any steps you've taken to promote a positive relationship between them.

When discussing the child's best interests, it's beneficial to include:

  • Personal Testimonies: Share specific examples and stories that illustrate your close relationship with your child, your understanding of their needs, and how you've previously navigated challenges for their benefit.
  • Professional Evaluations: If applicable, include insights from teachers, child psychologists, or family counselors who can attest to your child's needs and how they're best met in your care.
  • A Forward-Looking Plan: Present a clear, detailed plan for your child's future under your custody, covering education, healthcare, extracurricular activities, and emotional support.

Navigating Challenges and Misconceptions

Many fathers are under the misconception that courts automatically favor mothers in custody battles. However, California law is clear in its gender-neutral stance on custody decisions. The key for fathers is to actively challenge common misconceptions by proving their indispensable role in their child's life. Showing a willingness to facilitate a positive relationship between the child and their other parent can also play a critical role in the court’s decision.

The Right Legal Guidance for Fathers Seeking Full Custody

Securing full custody is a complex legal process because you may need to overcome a presumption the child’s best interests would be served by shared custody. A knowledgeable family law attorney can help you understand your rights and demonstrate why you should receive full custody

If you aim to secure your child's best possible future, our team at Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC is ready to support you every step of the way. Reach out to us at 855-426-9111 or online to schedule a consultation. Together, we can work towards achieving the outcome that best serves your and your child's interests.

How a Mother Can Get Full Custody of a Child in California

The law used to presume that mothers were the best natural custodians and caregivers of their children, and many times a mother could gain full custody of a child without expending any particular effort. That presumption is long gone from the laws and the court system, and parents who believe otherwise are often in for a surprise when they discuss custody with their attorney.

Mothers can still gain full custody of their children, but they have to work much harder to prove that this arrangement is in the children’s best interests. It is a good idea to work with a knowledgeable attorney and follow that attorney’s advice about what to do—and what to avoid—to gain full custody.

Joint Custody is Usually a Court’s First Choice

In most cases, there is now a presumption that a child benefits by having both parents involved in the child’s life. That belief is so strong that courts generally prefer to award custody jointly to both parents. This includes both legal custody, which involves the right to make decisions about a child’s education, health care, religious upbringing and other issues, as well as physical custody, which involves the child’s living arrangements. While it may not be possible for a child to spend an exactly equal amount of time with each parent, courts usually want to try to create an arrangement allowing both parents to share custody in some way.

To overcome this preference, a mother seeking full custody must be prepared to submit substantial evidence to show why a child would suffer harm rather than benefit by being in the custody of the father. It may be easier to obtain full physical custody than full legal custody. A mother seeking full custody should consider carefully the different responsibilities of each type of custody and consider whether she would accept an arrangement that provides full physical custody and shared legal custody. Even if a mother gains full physical and legal custody, the other parent may still have visitation rights.

Showing That the Other Parent is Not Fit

For one parent to obtain sole legal and physical custody, they must convince the court that the other parent is not able to provide the appropriate care for the child. Courts are generally more likely to award sole custody to a mother when there is evidence that the other parent:

  • Has committed domestic violence or has a history of child abuse or neglect
  • Is legally unfit to parent a child
  • Has falsely accused the mother of child abuse or neglect
  • Cannot provide a home that protects the child’s physical or emotional safety

Proving accusations of this type can be difficult and painful, so it is important to be prepared and to take steps to protect the child from exposure to excessive arguments and animosity. If a mother can demonstrate that the other parent has substance abuse issues, that can make it easier to persuade the court that the other parent is not fit to have custody, but that is no guarantee. An experienced attorney can help prepare effective arguments to show a court why denying custody to the other parent serves the child’s best interests.

When a Child Only Has One Legal and Biological Parent

In situations where a mother is not married at the time her child is born and no one has taken steps to establish legal paternity, then the mother automatically has full custody.  If the mother lived with a partner who acted as parent to the child but who did not adopt the child and who does not have a biological relationship with the child, that partner has no right to custody or even visitation.

However, if the partner was a registered domestic partner when the child was conceived or born, or if the birth mother filed a declaration establishing legal parentage, then the partner has some parental rights. Parentage can also be established by court order. While legal parentage does not automatically give a parent the right to custody or visitation, it does establish child support obligations.

Work with an Attorney Prepared to Advocate for Your Custody Goals

Custody is a complex issue full of nuances that can sway a court in one direction or another. The dedicated team at Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC has over 300 years of combined experience advocating on behalf of parents to help them prove why their preferred custody arrangements serve the best interests of their children.

For a confidential consultation to learn more about how to gain sole custody or fight another parent’s attempt to deny you custody, we invite you to schedule a consultation with our Certified Family Law Specialists and associates today.

What Can Be Used Against You in a Custody Battle in California?

Custody battles often form the most contentious and painful part of a divorce. Advice and advocacy from an experienced attorney can help you achieve your goals for custody, but you need to take certain steps to protect yourself and preserve your best opportunities.

Specifically, you need to avoid certain conduct that could make you look bad to the judge and work against your interests. As experienced divorce attorneys, here are some of the most common and problematic mistakes we’ve seen parents make that hurt their chances in a custody battle.

Violating Court Orders

Of all the things someone can do to damage their reputation with a judge, refusing to follow court orders would need to be near the top of the list. No one wants their authority undermined and their instructions ignored, so violating a court order could be personally irritating to the judge. It demonstrates a lack of respect for the law that can harm a child in numerous ways. So it is important to follow orders regarding payment of child support and alimony, temporary custody arrangements, restraining orders, or anything else.

Physical and Verbal Abuse

It probably goes without saying that if you hit or otherwise physically abuse someone in your family, evidence of that conduct will be used against you in your effort to seek custody. What many parents fail to realize, however, is that evidence of verbal abuse can be just as harmful. This includes ranting on social media. Excessive displays of temper can damage a child’s psyche, and judges are aware of this. While it may be very difficult to keep your temper under control, try to vent frustrations away from your children and the other parent, and away from other witnesses if possible.

Failing to Cooperate with the Other Parent

The law presumes it is in a child’s best interests to have meaningful contact with both parents, and that requires cooperation. If you refuse to communicate with the other parent, show up late when it’s time to drop off the child, and deny the other parent reasonable opportunities to communicate with the child, you are demonstrating to the court that you are not willing to cooperate in the task of parenting. While you might feel that you shouldn’t have to cooperate and that the child should be in your sole custody, the court may be likely to feel that the child would be better off in the sole custody of the other parent.

Moving in with a New Partner

It is hard for a child to accept that their parents are no longer together, and it can take considerable time for a child to adjust to this new reality. When a parent starts living with a new partner, that can make the situation much more difficult for the child to grasp. In addition, there can be concerns about whether the new partner poses a risk to the child’s health or safety. Courts are often reluctant to expose a child to an unsettling, risky situation, so it is better to keep any new relationships quiet until the divorce is finalized.

Parental Alienation Tactics

Sometimes intentionally and sometimes without realizing it, one parent will engage in behavior that turns a child against the other parent. This could involve making disparaging remarks about the other parent, refusing to share information about school or other activities so that the other parent is not able to participate in the child’s life, denying contact, taking away gifts from the other parent, and saying things to hint that that other parent is putting the child in danger. If you do or say anything that could be viewed as an attempt to alienate a child’s affections or damage their relationship with the other parent, that can be considered engaging in parental alienation, and used against you

Other Issues That Can Be Used Against You

A skilled attorney can argue that many situations and actions create a situation that is not in a child’s best interests. Additional issues that could be used against you in a custody battle include:

  • Substance abuse
  • Removing a child from school or daycare without good reason
  • Placing the child with a caregiver for an extended period
  • Mental health issues that are not controlled adequately with medication
  • Criminal conduct

If the other parent raises a difficult issue, your attorney should be prepared to provide an explanation showing why the factor should not be used against you. In order to do that, your attorney must have accurate information, so it is important to be honest and thorough when reviewing issues with your attorney.

An Experienced Attorney Can Help You Take the Right Steps to Gain Custody

Getting—and following—good legal advice is often the key to gaining your objectives for custody and other matters in your divorce. The team at Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC is ready to apply over 300+ years of collective experience to help you gain the best advantages for your future, including your preferred custody arrangements. Call us at 855-426-9111 or contact us online to schedule a free, confidential consultation with our team to learn more about how we can help.

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