Facts are always important in any family court case, and equal shared parenting legalities are no exception. It’s not just about having the correct facts to present in court; it’s about understanding the correct facts your state’s laws and policies.
There are a number of common misconceptions about legal custody, visitation and equal shared parenting plans. Let’s take a look at some of the most important aspects of joint legal custody that all California dads should know.
Child Custody Disputes Are a Leading Cause of Continued Litigation
Not every divorce ends in a courtroom trial. In many cases, divorcing couples are able to settle affairs outside of court, and simply submit their arrangement to the court for approval.
However, people tend to feel more strongly about their children than they do about possessions or money. For divorcing couples, it’s even more challenging to come to an equal shared parenting agreement than it is to divide assets.
Truth be told, equal parenting time arrangements require both parents to work together. Thus, divorcing couples often struggle with the ongoings of a co-parenting relationship. Especially during the divorce process, while the relationship wounds still feel fresh. When this is the case, a third-party is needed to mediate in negotiations.
In California, divorcing parents are required to go to mediation. This is a chance for couples to work with a neutral, third-party resource to come to a mutual joint physical custody arrangement. However, if they still can’t agree, the divorce case goes to trial and a judge will make the necessary calls.
Are Fathers at a Disadvantage When Trying to Win Equal Shared Parenting?
It’s a common misconception among fathers that they are automatically at a disadvantage in a custody case. Some believe that laws are biased against fathers and in favor of mothers. Others still believe that mothers are naturally more nurturing, better at routine childcare, and best suited for the role as a custodial parent.
However, these are myths. Fathers are just as capable of nurturing children as mothers are. There’s no biological trait that inherently makes women better at parenting than men. In fact, modern research proves that children who spend equal time with both parents have better outcomes on measures of:
- Emotional, behavioral, and psychological well-being
- Physical health
- Relationships with their fathers and mothers
- Benefits that remained during high levels of conflict between their parents
In California, family laws explicitly prohibit judges from preferring one parent over the other on the basis of gender. Parents should avoid making success-sacrificing assumptions when pursuing a joint physical custody arrangement based on the child’s best interests.
50/50 Custody Is Not Guaranteed
Don’t assume that just because the courts aren’t allowed to discriminate based on sex that you’ll automatically get shared 50/50 custody. Neither parent is guaranteed equal custody or any custody or visitation at all. The most important standard that family courts use to decide custody is “the best interest of the child.”
Custody decisions are meant to promote the best possible outcome for the child; issues of parenting preference or fairness is secondary at best. Framing custody cases in terms of what you want or what you think is most fair to you is usually a mistake. You want to genuinely be thinking about what’s fair to your child and what’s most beneficial – because that’s the stance courts take.
It’s also important to note that the parental child-rearing relationship – pre, during, and post-divorce – plays a key role in a judge’s decisions. If you were largely absent from your child’s day-to-day life while married, you will likely not be awarded 50/50 custody. The court will likely view this lack of effort as a disruption to your child’s routine.
You should also expect the court to evaluate current living and working arrangements. If you have a demanding job and routinely travel, unlike your ex, it’s likely your ex will be awarded more equal shared parenting time. This may be far from preferable or fair, especially for the children involved. However, courts can’t ignore schedules and availability circumstances.
Final Custody Orders Are Not Permanent
The good news is that if you’re unhappy with your custody order arrangement, you can simply petition for a modification. The final result of your custody case may be filed as “permanent,” but that doesn’t guarantee its longevity.
If your children are young, you have many years of co-parenting ahead and circumstances are likely to change. And as your children grow, their own schedules and preferences may change as well. It’s not uncommon for parents to return to court for custody modifications if and when life circumstances justify it.
This is especially true for when one parent isn’t living up to the terms of an existing custody order. For example, if one parent frequently cancels scheduled visitations, a judge may award make-up parenting time or even modify an existing custody order altogether.
A legal resource group can help you better understand your father’s rights in preparation for court. Contact National Family Solutions, and consult with an experienced legal professional to determine your eligibility for our services today.