Generally, if a couple with children decides to divorce, and they are unable to come to an agreement regarding custody, they will ask the court to evaluate the evidence and issue a ruling. Parties that believe a custody ruling to be erroneous or unjust can file an appeal, but they generally must demonstrate a clear error to obtain a reversal. Recently, a California court issued an opinion describing how appellate courts evaluate custody rulings in a case in which the mother filed an appeal following an award of joint custody. If you are embroiled in a custody dispute, it is important to speak with a trusted California child custody attorney to evaluate your options.
The Trial Court Ruling
It is alleged that the husband and the wife were married in 2001 and had a son in 2007. They separated in 2013, and the husband filed for divorce three years later. During the litigation of their case, the mother had custody of the son sixty percent of the time while the father enjoyed custody forty percent of the time, but there was no formal arrangement. In the final order dissolving the marriage, the court ordered the arrangement to remain in place until a custody evaluation could be conducted. Following the evaluation, the court ordered the parents joint custody, with equal time with the child. The mother then appealed, arguing the court abused its discretion in issuing the order.
Evidence Weighed in an Appeal of an order Dictating Child Custody
An appellate court tasked with reviewing a custody order will examine it for an abuse of discretion and apply the substantial evidence standard to the trial court’s findings of fact. In custody cases, a court will abuse its discretion if it issues an order despite no reasonable basis that the edicts in the order are in the best interest of the child. A court can also abuse its discretion by making wrong legal assumptions or applying improper criteria. Finally, a trial court can abuse its discretion by failing to maintain impartiality, issuing a decision not based on the evidence presented, or failing to use its reasoned judgment.