Articles Posted in Child Custody

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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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When determining child custody, the California family law courts are obligated to render decisions that are in the child’s best interest. Thus, in some cases, a court must make the difficult decision to terminate a parent’s custodial rights, based on the fact a parent has abandoned the child. A California appellate court recently analyzed what constitutes abandonment, in a case in which the biological mother of two children did not seek or contact the children for over a year while she sought treatment for addiction. If you are in the process of determining custody of a child it is essential to engage an experienced California family law attorney to help you protect your parental rights.

Factual Background of the Case

Reportedly, the mother and the father were married, had two daughters, and then divorced. The mother was granted primary custody and the father was granted visitation. Four years after the divorce, the father began to suspect the mother was using illicit drugs and sought temporary sole custody of the children. The mother admitted to using drugs and stipulated to allow the father to have temporary sole custody while she underwent treatment for drug and alcohol addiction. The mother was in treatment for a total of fourteen months.

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It is not uncommon for a divorced couple that shares custody of a child to live in close proximity to one another, both for the sake of convenience and to benefit the child. In some cases, however, one parent will move far away, and may even relocate to another state. It is inevitable that a parent’s out of state relocation will affect his or her custody rights, but when the parent moving away seeks to obtain primary custody and relocate the child to another state, it will completely alter the lives of both parents and the child. A California court of appeals recently explained the factors a court must weigh when an out of state parent seeks to relocate a child to his or her state, in a case in which a father who moved to Arkansas was granted physical custody of a child.  If you share custody of a child and your co-parent wants to relocate your child to another state it is vital to retain a skillful California family law attorney to assist you in protecting your parental rights.

Living Situations of the Child’s Parents

Allegedly, the mother and father married in 2005 and divorced in 2007. They had one child together. A 2008 custody order granted the mother primary physical custody, and a final custody order in 2009 granted the father the right to overnight visits. The mother stated she would not comply with the terms of the order. In 2010, the custody order was modified due to the father’s lack of employment or housing.

It is reported that when the father obtained housing, the mother again stated she would not allow the child to stay overnight with the father. In 2011, the father moved to Arkansas. Subsequently, in 2017, the mother requested sole custody, noting that the father had only seen the child for 35 days each year. The father filed a response asking the court to grant joint custody, with his home as the child’s primary residence. Following a hearing, the court granted the parents joint legal custody and awarded primary physical custody to the father. The mother appealed.

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A child custody move-away case occurs when one party makes the decision to relocate outside of the county in which he or she was residing. Usually, move-away cases involve the complex issues that arise when a parent moves beyond a distance that permits for the moving-parent to continue to take the minor child to his or her school. This means that move-away cases typically involve moving to a home beyond 10 miles from the party’s prior residence.

If you are involved in a California Custody Case, you should first be aware of the existence of the Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders (ATROs) that go into effect automatically at the commencement of either a divorce (dissolution of marriage) case and at the outset of a Petition for Child Custody and Visitation Orders. These ATROs go into effect for the Petitioner upon the filing of the case and become effective upon the Respondent(s) following the personal service of the Petition upon the Respondent or upon the filing of a Response to the case by the Respondent. These Restraining Orders can be found on page 2 of the Summons.

The ATRO relating to the relocation of the minor child in a divorce case reads:

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Custody cases often produce custody evaluations and other sources of sensitive information. As such, certain documents may be deemed confidential and both parties are prohibited from disclosing any information in the document. If a party, or his or her attorney, discloses information in a confidential document it can result in adverse consequences.

This was illustrated in a recent case decided by a California appellate court, in which the court imposed sanctions on a wife’s attorney for revealing information contained in a confidential custody evaluation. If you are involved in a custody dispute, it is important to retain an experienced California family law attorney who will act in the best interest of both you and your child.

Facts Regarding the Divorce Actions

The wife had a child with her first husband. They divorced but were engaged in an ongoing custody dispute. The court ordered a custody evaluation and a psychological evaluation. The wife then married her second husband and gave birth to a second child. The second marriage dissolved, but the custody issue was unresolved. The first husband filed an affidavit in support of the second husband in the second action, alleging that the wife engaged in substantial misconduct involving both children.

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