Articles Posted in Child Custody

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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.

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Sharing custody of a child can be difficult, as parents and the courts have to not only determine what is in the best interest of the child, but also must develop a way for parents to exercise their rights. The struggles of sharing custody are often exacerbated during the holidays, as parents frequently wish to share time and make memories with their children and are reluctant to relinquish any time. There are ways parents can avoid some of the heartaches of sharing custody during the holidays, though, and it is prudent for anyone trying to determine how to protect custody rights during important events to speak to a knowledgeable California child custody attorney to discuss their options.

Shared Custody of a Child During the Holidays

When parents who share custody of a child are finalizing their custody arrangements with the courts, it is advisable for them to request that the courts determine custody exchanges on important holidays as part of any decree. Otherwise, exchanges during holidays will comply with the standard schedule the court develops.

In some cases, certain holidays may be more important to one parent than the other. For example, if parents practice different religions, they may celebrate important holidays on different dates. In other instances, a holiday will be of equal importance to both parents. Depending on how each parent feels about the holiday in question, there are several different ways in which they can share custody. Regardless of which option parents choose, establishing a clear holiday schedule ahead of time can help ease their anxiety regarding spending time with their children on important days. Continue reading →

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Many times when the parents of a child end their relationship, they will turn to the courts to decide issues of custody and child support. There are numerous factors that a court should consider in determining an appropriate custody arrangement and support obligation. For example, a court will typically evaluate how much time each parent spends with a child in calculating child support obligations. Recently, a California court discussed a court’s discretion, or lack thereof, in determining an appropriate support obligation, in a case in which timesharing that did not exist was accredited to the father. If you share custody of a child and you or your co-parent wish to seek child support, you should speak to a trusted California child support attorney to discuss your options.

Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the mother and father were parents of a minor child. The mother sought child support, after which the court entered an order based on guidelines that required the court to determine the approximate amount of time the higher-earning parent spent with the child and use that number to calculate an appropriate support obligation. The trial court had attributed a twenty-nine percent timeshare to the father, even though for several years, he had no visitation with the child.

Reportedly, the mother appealed the order as it pertained to the periods in which the father did not spend time with the child, which was approximately five years. The court found in favor of the mother and ruled that the order must be recalculated based on the father’s actual timeshare of the child during the disputed period.

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In any family law dispute involving custody, the court’s primary concern is what is in the child’s best interest. While normally it is beneficial for a child to have ongoing contact with both parents, in cases involving domestic violence, the court may decline to grant a parent custody or visitation rights, unless the evidence demonstrates it should rule otherwise. In a recent California case, the court discussed what evidence is needed to demonstrate that a party has perpetrated domestic violence and that awarding custody to that party would be detrimental to a child. If you are immersed in a disagreement over custody that involves allegations of domestic violence, it is prudent to speak to a dedicated California child custody attorney to discuss what measures you may be able to take to safeguard the interests of you and your child.

Factual and Procedural History

It is reported that the mother met the father when she attended his karate class. She was thirteen at the time, and he was thirty-four. When the mother turned eighteen, they married and shortly thereafter had a daughter. The mother filed for divorce when the child was eighteen months old. The mother sought sole legal and physical custody of the daughter with limited visitation rights awarded to the father, alleging that the father had sexually molested her when she was a minor and routinely engaged in acts of domestic violence against the mother, in the form of stalking and verbal assault.

Allegedly, the court found that there was insufficient evidence that the father perpetrated acts of domestic violence and awarded the father joint custody, ordering a schedule that would allow him to have physical custody approximately thirty percent of the time. The mother appealed, arguing that the court abused its discretion in finding that the father should be granted custody rights.

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Given the global economy and the ease of establishing a life outside of the United States, it is not uncommon for a family to reside in another country for an extended duration. When a couple that regularly spends time in other countries decides to divorce, however, their international travel habits may present challenges in terms of determining custody. The hurdles of protecting custody rights when the parties have lived abroad were demonstrated in a recent California case in which the parties lived overseas prior to seeking a divorce. If your child’s co-parent is attempting to keep your child in another country, it is essential to retain a diligent California child custody attorney to help you fight to protect your parental rights.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the mother and father were married in Italy in 2006 and lived there until 2008 when they moved to California. They had two children in 2009 and 2010 while living in California. In 2016, they moved back to Italy as a family, but the mother and the father became United States citizens prior to moving. They eventually gave up all of their assets and property in California and established a life in Italy. The children attended school in Italy and routinely received medical treatment there as well.

Allegedly, in 2018, the mother and the father began experiencing marital problems, and the mother advised that she wished to move back to California with the children. The parties never agreed regarding where the children would reside, however. The mother moved back to California, and in 2019 the father filed for divorce in Italy. The mother then traveled to Italy and returned to California with the children. At that time, the children had lived in Italy for two years and nine months. The mother subsequently filed a divorce action in California in which she sought, in part, sole legal and physical custody of the children. The father then filed a petition for the return of the children under the Hague convention.

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In many instances, a parent will not agree with a court’s order regarding the custody of a child. While there are appropriate means for asking a court to modify or reconsider a custody order, some parents, unfortunately, take matters into their own hands and simply disregard a court-ordered custody agreement, and withhold a child from the other parent. Fortunately, however, the law provides avenues for parents who are seeking to remedy the unjust denial of access to their children. If you need assistance with a child custody matter, it is critical to engage a trusted California child custody attorney to assist you in protecting your rights.

Establishing Child Custody

Under California law, both parents are presumed to have a right to custody and visitation. Thus, if no existing order establishes custody of a child, either parent can seek court intervention to establish custody. A written order is essential as it helps parents protect their rights in the event a co-parent attempts to withhold a child. A court asked to decide a custody matter will set forth an order that is in the child’s best interest after considering factors such as the health of the child and each parent, the child’s needs, the parents’ resources, and any other relevant factors. It is important that the order contains clear provisions for the division of custody, including dates and times for exchanges and methods for resolving any disputes.

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It is not uncommon for a parent who has lost custody of a child to the State to seek a modification of a juvenile order once the parent has addressed the State’s concerns. Thus, the California courts allow for modifications of juvenile orders in certain circumstances. Specifically, a parent that wishes to modify an existing juvenile order must produce evidence sufficient to show that there has been a material change in circumstances. What constitutes a material change was discussed in a recent California case in which a mother appealed the denial of her petition for modification. If you intend to seek a modification of an existing juvenile custody order, it is prudent to contact a knowledgeable California child custody attorney to discuss your case.

Historical Background of the Case

It is reported that DCFS removed the child from the care of the mother and father in 2017, due to a history of violent altercations between the parents, the father’s conviction for battery, and the mother’s untreated mental health issues. The mother was granted visitation at DCFS’s offices, domestic violation training, and reunification services. She was then granted overnight visitation with the child, which she then lost due to her failure to move to a safer home as required, and her ongoing contact with the father.

Allegedly, the State subsequently terminated reunification services as well, due to the mother’s failure to refrain from contacting the father.  The mother continued her visits with the child, which were positive, and the child was diagnosed with autism. Ultimately, the mother filed a petition for modification of the order terminating reunification services and requested to have the child placed with her, arguing she met all of the court’s requirements and that it would be in the child’s best interest to be with her. The court denied her petition, after which the mother appealed.

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The California family law courts generally try to preserve parental rights, and in cases in which a parent is estranged from a child, they may order reunification services to help repair the parent-child relationship. In some cases, however, the court will find that reunification efforts will not be beneficial to a child, and will deny a parent’s request for reunification services. Recently, a California appellate court discussed when it is proper to deny reunification services in a case in which the mother sought reunification with her three children that were removed from her care. If you or the co-parent of your child have a strained relationship with the child and wish to seek reunification services, it is sensible to speak with a proficient California child custody attorney to discuss your rights.

Background of the Case

Reportedly, the mother and the father had two biological children. The parents were routinely investigated by child services due to issues with neglect and domestic violence. In 2015, at the end of the first dependency, the children were removed from the mother’s care, and custody was granted to the father. The children were then taken from the father in 2017, and after the second dependency, custody was granted to the mother. The mother subsequently had another child.

It is alleged that in 2018, a third dependency commenced after all three children were removed from the mother’s care. The County Children and Family Services (CFS) subsequently recommended that any reunification efforts with the mother be bypassed.  The court issued an order bypassing reunification services for the third child but granted the mother reunification services for the first two children, based on the finding that the two children were the same child. Counsel for the first and second child appealed.

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In any family law case in which the custody of a child is at issue, the court’s foremost concern is to develop an arrangement that is in the best interest of the child. While typically custody will be divided between a child’s biological or legal parents, in some cases the court will find that it is beneficial for a child to grant a third-party custody rights. In a recent case ruled on by the Court of Appeals for the Sixth District of California, in which the ex-boyfriend of a child’s mother sought visitation, the court discussed when it is appropriate to grant a third-party custody rights. If you are involved in a custody dispute with your child’s co-parent or any other party, it is critical to retain a seasoned California child custody attorney to fight to help you maintain your custody rights and seek an arrangement that is in your child’s best interest.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that in July 2017, mother was arrested for driving under the influence and her two minor children were taken into protective custody. The plaintiff lived with the mother and both children from October 2016 through March 2017 and was the father of the younger of the two children. The plaintiff indicated during a dependency hearing that he wished to be designated as the presumed parent of the older child. At a subsequent hearing, the court found that both mother and the plaintiff had behavioral and substance abuse issues and named both children to be dependents of the court. The court also granted the plaintiff supervised visits with the younger child and mother supervised visits with both children.

Allegedly, the children were later moved from foster care into the home of their grandmother. The plaintiff subsequently petitioned the court to be recognized as the presumed parent of the older child, which the court denied. The plaintiff then requested visitation with the older child. Mother opposed the petition, arguing the older child was doing fine without seeing the plaintiff and that the sibling bond between the two children did not suffer due to the fact that the plaintiff only had access to one child. The court found that a bond existed between the plaintiff and the older child, and granted the plaintiff visitation rights. The mother appealed.

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In our current world, when a couple divorces it is not uncommon for one parent to move to another state. In most cases, the state that originally decides a custody matter retains jurisdiction over the matter, and other courts must abide by the original court’s order. The Court of Appeals for the Fourth District of California recently addressed the issue of when a court is permitted to modify a custody order issued by another jurisdiction. If you share custody of your child pursuant to an order that was issued in another state that you or your co-parent wishes to amend, it is critical to meet with a seasoned California family law attorney to discuss whether the order is subject to modification by the California courts.

Factual Background of the Case

Reportedly, the mother and father share custody of two children. The terms of the custody were determined by a consent order issued by a North Carolina court in 2017. In 2018, however, the mother filed a family law action in the California courts and registered the North Carolina order as required by the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). She then filed a petition for an order modifying ten of the terms set forth in the North Carolina order.

It is alleged that Oral argument was held on the matter, after which the court ruled that California had UCCJEA jurisdiction and that California had jurisdiction to enter custody orders in the case. The court granted the mother’s petition in part and denied it in part. The mother then appealed. On appeal, the court reversed the trial court ruling on the grounds that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to modify the North Carolina order.

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