In a divorce, few issues can stir emotions as much as child custody. In our experience, most families going through a difficult divorce process often times make custody issues a central part of their legal efforts.
In California, courts will award custody based on the best interests of the child or children involved in the dissolution of marriage. Initially, both parents will begin with equal rights to custody, and a judge is not allowed to favor one spouse or the other based on the gender of the parent. California law is written with the guiding policies that children will benefit the most from frequent and continuing contact with both parents, and that the health, safety and welfare of the children must be the primary and determining factor that the court will use to determine how custody is finally settled.
With this in mind, it is incumbent upon our office to work with a parent in a divorce to present them in the most favorable light possible of there is a goal of becoming the custodial parent. Courts will often grant custody or limit custody based on the prior acts of a parent. For example, if a parent has committed a felony, such as murder, rape, or another violent act, there’s not much chance that parent will have much access to their children. A parent’s habitual drug and alcohol abuse are also factors that will negatively affect a child’s health and well-being and could be used to limit visitation or custody.
On the other hand, a judge will favor stability and continuity in a child’s life, including maintaining going to the same schools, seeing the same doctors and dentists and attempting to keep siblings together, unless there is a specific reason not to.
One factor that is beyond our control but that the courts consider, is the child’s preference as to which parent they want to be with as a primary custodian. California law requires courts to consider the wishes of a child if they are mature enough to make a decision or have an opinion on the matter. There is no set or specific age, but the older and more mature a child is, the more likely that the judge will give significant weight to the child’s input.
We take all these factors into account when arguing for primary custody of children on behalf of our clients. We are also careful to counsel our clients not to interfere with a child’s relationship with their other parent, as this is not viewed favorably by the courts. The bottom line is that we want to come up with a parenting plan that is both fair and shows a primary regard for the children’s health and well-being, while still protecting our client’s custody and visitation rights.
The Law Offices of Grossman & Mahan proudly serves Tarzana, Woodland Hills, Canoga Park, Sherman Oaks, West Hills, Encino and nearby California communities.