As a Certified Family Law Attorney in California, I have handled hundreds of child custody cases. As such, I see the good things parents do during a custody hearing, as well as the bad. I see parents who prepare for their child custody cases and focus on what is best for the kids, and I see parents do things that do not help their case at all.
When deciding child custody cases, the California courts’ will make decisions based on what is in the best interest of the child. Factors evaluated to decide what is in the best interest of the child include:
- Who has been the primary parent?
- Age and health of the child
- The emotional bond between the parents and the children
- Amount of time each parent has spent with the children up until now
- History (if any) of domestic violence and substance abuse
- Current living situation
- The employment and ability of both parents to properly care for the child
So what does this mean as you prepare for your child custody case? What should you do? Here are my top 6 tips for getting the best results from your child custody case in California courts:
- Do not involve your new boyfriend/girlfriend. If you’ve moved on and are dating someone else, it can be tempting to include them in your visitations. My advice is don’t. It can upset your kids and the courts could think that you put your need to be with your new “friend” above the needs of your kids.
So it’s best to just not include them in your time with your kids. Even if your new boyfriend/girlfriend is upset by that decision, stick to it. That also means don’t have them spend the night and definitely don’t move in with your new boyfriend/girlfriend until your custody case is finalized.
- Stay away from drugs and alcohol. It seems obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many people think smoking a joint won’t hurt their case. Even if it’s not in front of the kids, it can be extremely harmful to your case, so just don’t do it. Stay away from all recreational drugs and make sure you don’t drink too much, especially in front of your kids.
- Monitor, but don’t obsess. Documenting certain things regarding your ex can be helpful. For example, if your ex is consistently 30 minutes late dropping them off or picking them up, that is good to document. However, you don’t need to obsessively document every time they are a few minutes late or if they forgot to do help with the kids’ homework.
The courts will look at the more important and relevant things that you document, but that’s all that is important to them. If you take it farther, you’re probably just going to upset yourself and waste time focusing on things that don’t matter in the big picture. Remember, life wasn’t perfect when you were with your ex, so don’t expect it to be perfect now.
- Stay involved in the day to day and spend as much time as possible with your kids. It’s important to go to your kids’ sports events, even if it’s not officially your turn to have the kids. Talk to their teachers, help your ex ferry them around to their friends’ house, and any activities they may have (if your ex would like the help, obviously). The point is to be a part of their day to day activities and know what is going on in their lives. Don’t be the parent who checks out during the time you don’t have your kids.
- Make school a priority. Ensure your kids are doing their homework when they with you, get them to school on time, and get them the help they need if they are struggling in school. The family courts put a high priority on education, so make sure you do too.
- Prioritize your kids’ health. Make sure your kids are eating healthy, have good oral hygiene routines, and be involved with their medical care. Like it or not, obesity, dental problems, and poor hygiene are a direct reflection on you as a parent, and the courts will take your child’s health into consideration (who is caring and focusing on their health) when determining custody arrangements.
I hope these tips have given you more information on what types of things you can do to get the best results from your custody case. If you have any questions about child custody or your divorce, please feel free to contact me.