Determining child custody can be emotionally draining and stressful. While
it is better for parents to mutually consent to a custody plan, many times
their views differ on whom the more capable guardian is. If parents cannot
decide on how custody agreements are established, the court may be involved.
In particularly contentious cases, a parent may use custody as an advantage
over the other. If you are going custody battle, it is important to build
a strong case.
Often parents will seek full custody over their child. This includes both
legal and physical custody. Legal custody allows a parent full discretion
when deciding how the child is raised, discipline matters, education,
medical care, and religion. Physical custody refers to the primary residence
of the child. Full custody grants a parent both privileges.
What the Judge Considers in Regards to Custody
Judges base their decisions about child custody on the standards upheld
by the U.S. Supreme Court referred to as the “child’s best
interest.” These standards prioritize the needs and well-being of
the child or children.
General factors the judges consider:
Age of child – While many courts are moving away from the traditional views of
giving the mother custody, they will take into consideration the age of
the child. If they are a baby who is nursing, the judge may favor the
mother in custody decisions. However, this does not mean that the courts
rule out the father’s interests.
The child’s attachment to both parents – If one parent provided the majority of care, the child will be
more inclined to bond with that parent. The court discerns whether separation
from the primary parent will cause more harm than good.
Parents’ present economic and emotional situation – Parents should be financially and emotionally stable enough to
take care of their child. The judge looks at whether the parents can support
the needs of their children, both physically and psychologically.
Co-parenting skills – Part of the child’s best interests includes a relationship
with both parents. Judges will want to see if the parents will foster
avenues of communication between their kid and the other parent. They
want a guardian who promotes the connection.
Child’s preference – The judge significantly considers a child’s preference.
In fact, after the age of 14, California kids can choose with whom they
would like to live.
Stability and safety of living environment – If a child grew up in a specific home and community, they set roots
there. The judge will consider this before making the child move. They
will also consider the safety of the kid in that home. They want to see
if the parents have any history of drug use or abuse, which will limit custody.
Some cases will automatically negate a parent’s right to their child.
If an individual has a history of domestic violence or sexual abuse, the
judge will assign full custody to the other parent.
Building a Case
If you are going through a divorce and cannot come to an agreement with
your ex over custody, you may need to start building your case. Having
an experienced child custody attorney on your side can make the process
smoother. However, if you believe that your case may go to trial, you
can start preparing in advance. Here are some factors to consider when
strategizing. Remember, the better your plan is, the advantage it will
give you over your ex.
Know Your Role and What You Want
When you appear before a judge, you will need more than your status as
“mother” or “father.” You will need to know how
to raise a child, what you can do to establish a safe and healthy environment
for them to grow up in, and what being the sole custodial parent really
means. The judge will question how involved you are in your kid’s
life. You should know as much as possible about their schooling, their
daily habits, and their favorite activities. Understand that full custody
entails a lot of responsibility.
Organize and Keep Records
Documents can serve as tangible proof of all you do for your child. Keep
a journal for interactions you believe are significant and will help you
case. Keep receipts and notes on the care you provide. The judges want
to know what you do, specifically, rather than what your ex does not do.
During the trial, the judge may call forth witnesses to comment on your
character and capability as a parent. Give some thought to whom you would
want to speak on your behalf. It should be someone who knows you as a
parent and can speak of the way you and your child interact.
At James D. Madden, Attorney at Law, we understand how important it is
to have custody of your child. If you are fighting for your kid during
a divorce, contact our Rancho Cucamonga attorneys today. We will help
you build a strong, effective case with which to advocate full custody.
We offer free consultations so that we can review your case. Call today!