There are many different situations where a father could find himself in a place where seeking the sole custody of his child may feel like the best way to move forward. If you are seeking what is in the best interest of your child and worried about how to proceed next, an Orange County family attorney can help assess your circumstances and guide you toward what is best for you and your child.
One of the most important things to remember when navigating through custody situations is that “winning” should be defined in terms of what is best for your child. Revenge custody battles with negative intentions can only cause more harm than good for all parties involved. In these cases especially, it is often the child who can suffer the most. Remember that a win in custody battles should mean a victory for your child first.
Joint Custody and The Best Interest Of Your Child
Customarily, courts are first and foremost interested in granting joint, or shared custody in whatever circumstances may best allow it. As you are primarily concerned with your child’s well being, the goal of the court is to find a custody agreement that is in the best interest of your child as well. This will often take the form of some type of shared custody, wherever possible. Additionally, gaining primary custody of course still means there will be shared between both parents. As a father, your primary goal may be to gain equal parenting time.
Many fathers incorrectly assume they are at a disadvantage when trying to gain equal parenting time from the mother of their child. This is a misunderstanding of the law. Under California law, the courts are not allowed to show any bias toward the mother or against a father. Both parents need to support why their plan for scheduling time with the child is in the child’s best interest. To achieve equal parenting time, you need to show that your involvement, parenting skills and schedule are working in your relationship with the child. Remember, we are looking at what is in the best interest of the child, and generally, it is in their best interest to keep both parents involved in the child’s life equally.
However, we recognize there are some cases where joint custody may not be possible, or in the best interest of the child. Especially if the child’s safety is in danger with a parent who is abusive, neglectful, addicted to drugs or alcohol, or other extreme cases, the court will need to look at other arrangements. If you are a father seeking sole custody of your child because you believe the mother of your child is unfit to parent for one of these reasons, there are steps that you need to take. If for some reason, the mother is trying to prove that you are unfit as a father, we advise seeking the advice of a professional family attorney to help you navigate through your specific case.
Gaining Primary Custody As A Father
We are using the term primary custody to refer to the amount of shared time the parent receives. If a father is looking to increase the amount of time that he spends with the child to win primary custody, here are some steps you need to take.
First of all, from the last court order, you need to be able to show a significant change of circumstances. For example, wanting to move from 50-60% shared time may not be considered a significant change, but moving from 20-60% would be a more significant change. A significant change must have occurred after the last court order, be different enough to justify a new court appearance, and should require a modification of time parenting. These events could be a change in either the father or mother’s circumstances. The specifics of that event can be something which causes an increase or decrease in the amount of time that a parent is able to spend with the child, or it can be an event that causes harm or serious risk to the child’s health, safety and well-being.
Evidence that the mother is unfit
Likely, if you are seeking primary custody of your child, you may believe that the mother of your child is unfit to parent them. Again, remember that we are looking out for what is in the best interest of your child. It is important to recognize the significance of the mother’s involvement with your child, even if through supervised visits or some other arrangement from the court. If you believe that your child is in danger during the time spent with the child’s mother you must be able to provide evidence to the court of these dangers. A judge will look at the documentation and evidence you provide, whether through photographs, messages, witness reports, etc. and determine the best outcome for your child in this situation. Remember, these types of situations can be very difficult for all parties involved, so it is recommended to contact an experienced family attorney if you are trying to prove that your ex-spouse is unfit to parent your child.
Evidence of Your Relationship With Your Child
Of course, when seeking primary custody, the judge will also want to see evidence of the relationship that you currently have with your child. This is one of the most important things that will determine custody time. Prepare to show your ability to be a primary caregiver by answering questions about your past visitations and your specific roles and responsibilities as a parent. You want to be able to show that you are actively involved, whether that be through attending school events and extra-curricular activities, or by sharing responsibilities like providing transportation and for other needs of your child. You can also share documentation of how you spend your time with your child during your visits together. You want to demonstrate the strong bond and relationship you that you and your child share to the judge.
No matter your situation, if you are seeking a change in custody it is best to seek out the experience of a family attorney who will advocate for you and your family.