Child custody concept. Wooden blocks with text and woman, man and child figurine

Child custody battles are often contentious and lengthy disputes. Although courts prefer joint custody arrangements in most circumstances, there may be situations where sharing custody does not work. However, it’s essential to understand that in any custody case, a court’s primary concern is one thing — the child’s best interests.

The following are a few things you can do to help ensure a successful outcome in your child custody case:

Be Familiar with the California Child Custody Laws

A parent who seeks custody of their child should have a good understanding of the California child custody laws that govern these types of matters. Specifically, custody comes in two parts — legal custody and physical custody.

While legal custody concerns who will make decisions on the child’s behalf, physical custody refers to where the child will live. When custody is “sole,” it belongs only to one parent. In cases where custody is “joint,” it is shared between them. When a parent requests “full custody,” they are usually referring to “sole custody.”

In determining custody matters, judges do not give preference to either the mother or the father. Instead, they will decide the case based on what is in the best interests of the child. Absent circumstances involving abuse, neglect, or other issues that could place a child’s welfare at risk, courts typically favor joint custody arrangements because they allow both parents to take part in their child’s upbringing.

Understand the Grounds that Justify Sole Custody

If you’re pursuing sole custody, it’s important to keep in mind that you’re making a case for your child, rather than yourself. You must be able to show that you are able to offer a safe, stable, and loving home for your child — and that there are circumstances that make the other parent unfit, justifying an award of sole custody. But even if you are granted sole custody, the other parent will usually still have visitation rights.

A court may determine an award of sole custody is appropriate in the following situations:

  • A parent has serious substance abuse issues
  • There is a finding that domestic violence was committed against one parent
  • There is evidence of child abuse or neglect
  • Mental health issues have been left unaddressed and could impact custody
  • Parental alienation can be proven
  • Other circumstances exist that would make a parent unfit

Critically, if your petition for full custody is based on any of the above grounds, you must have sufficient evidence to support your case. Gather all relevant documents to show the court, including financial records, visitation schedules, photographs, emails, text messages, and any other documentation that can strengthen your case. A skillful child custody attorney will be able to advise you regarding the evidence that would be helpful in your specific situation.

Put Your Child’s Best Interests First and Foremost

Whether you are the parent requesting sole custody, or the parent who was served with the petition, one of the most important things you can do for your child and your case is take an active role in your child’s life. Spend as much time as you can with your children and don’t skip any scheduled parenting time. Keep detailed notes and documentation that can help to support your case. It’s also crucial to be flexible and show the court that you are willing to cooperate with the other parent.

If you are the parent against whom custody is sought, you should remember that the court’s focus is on the best interests of the children, and you should be prepared to raise evidence accordingly. You can’t change any of your past behaviors, but you will still be able to demonstrate to the judge that you are a responsible parent. Be sure to keep a clean driving record and obtain the help you need if drug or alcohol abuse has been an issue in the past.

Demonstrating good character, not speaking disparagingly about the other parent, and not fighting in front of your children are a few other things you can do to put yourself in a position for a successful outcome in a custody case. The safety, welfare, and best interests of your children should always be first and foremost.

Work Toward a Child Custody Settlement Agreement

In most cases, the best way for everyone to “win” in a child custody matter is to work with the other parent to reach an agreement. Not only can this substantially reduce the amount of time you would spend in court and the costs of litigation, but settling outside of court is also usually in the best interests of your child. This can mean you have more time to spend with your child and can result in a custody arrangement that is tailored to the needs of your child and family — rather than let a judge determine the outcome.

When parents are contentious, mediation can be a useful tool to help facilitate health communication in order to reach an agreement. During mediation sessions, a neutral third party guides the discussion and encourages both parties to be open with their concerns. It is a non-adversarial approach that can make the process of reaching a custody agreement easier and help to ensure you keep the best interests of your children at the forefront.

Contact an Experienced Fresno Child Custody Attorney

If you are faced with a child custody matter, it’s vital to have reliable counsel by your side who will fight for your rights and the best interests of your children. With more than 20 years of experience, the Law Offices of Rick D. Banks offers clients diligent representation and compassionate counsel for a wide variety of family law matters — including child custody issues. To schedule a no obligation consultation, call (559) 222-4891.

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