You know the kids belong with you, but how can you show the judge that?  This blog will talk through what to do (and what not to do) when trying to demonstrate your abilities as a parent in a child custody visitation situation.

In marriages, there can come a time when you know your relationship with the father or mother of your children is deteriorating and that you may split up. How do you deal with this and maintain your relationship with the kids?

Where to Begin

First, begin to gather documentation and keep records of your time and activities with your children. If you are the one who  takes them to the doctor or attends the parent-teacher conferences, keep careful records in a personal calendar. This can then be produced to show how much time you spend with your children and what you do with them. This can improve your chances of a more favorable child custody and visitation schedule.

It is extremely helpful for the court to know what kind of quality time you share with your children and what you do as a parent to care for them. Whether that’s driving them to school every day or helping them with homework every night. If you are the parent who schedules and attends activities with the kids the majority of the time, you want the judge to know this. He or she can make appropriate decisions about the time each parent will spend with them going forward.

In San Diego County Family Court, the office of Family Court Services provides recommendations for counseling or mediation. They will interview the parents together or separately (and sometimes teenage children) and issue a recommendation to the judge about what a good child custody and visitation plan for the family.

The parents don’t have to agree with the plan and they can request a hearing. But the judge could adopt all or none of the recommendation depending on the circumstances. This scenario could arise in a parentage action, legal separation, divorce, or domestic violence case in court. Ensure that the judge knows that your role as a parent is extremely important and that your time with kids should be maximized to benefit their health and welfare.  

Document Everything

If the other parent is uninvolved or minimally involved, or has a history of abuse, document it. If that parent has a drinking problem or uses illicit drugs, or has a criminal history, find a way to prove this information. It will help the judge understand which parent is likely to receive child custody and visitation.  

On the flip side, there are many things you should not be doing if you want to be successful in your custody case. Don’t act out and be abusive to the other parent, especially in front of the children. Don’t send harassing or taunting text messages or phone calls. Be civil and polite, and remember the children are the most adversely affected by  confrontations between their parents. They can be emotionally harmed by such encounters that they witness or hear.

Don’t use the children as a weapon by trying to keep them away from the other parent. Also, do not take them away, particularly far away from their city of normal residence. California retains jurisdiction over the children of a relationship if they have been resident in the state for at least six months prior. If they are taken to another state without the consent of the other parent, the leaving parent could be forced to return them to California. This can severely affect the ability of that parent to gain child custody and visitation.  

Stay Involved with Child Custody and Visitation Hearings

Be proactive and get things moving in court as soon as you know there may be a dispute or disagreement about child custody and visitation. One area of common conflict is the location of a child’s school. If you are contemplating starting a court case prior to the new school year, don’t wait around. Make sure to file the case as soon as possible. This will allow you to have an answer about school at the beginning of the academic year, rather than in the middle. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen in a timely fashion and this is disruptive to the children.

You want what’s best for your children so take steps to prevent conflict and stabilize their living situation. If you need more help, contact JWB Family Law to discuss your child custody and visitation situation so we can set you on a track for smooth transition.