Divorcing couples in California who have children together will ultimately face child custody issues, and losing time with your child can be a very frightening idea. Unfortunately, when the court becomes involved with disputed matters during a separation or divorce, child custody issues are often highly contested. However, by handling the divorce on your own without involving attorneys, you may have more flexibility in reaching a resolution that best addresses all of your concerns.
Child Custody in California Divorce Proceedings: Questions to Ask Yourself
Navigating child custody disputes without an attorney is often simpler in the long run. However, how can you know what’s best for your child? In any child custody dispute, the child’s best interest is always the main focus. In fact, “the child’s best interest” sets the standard used by California judges when hearing custody disputes. This standard takes into account a variety of factors, such as the child’s age, the parents’ work schedules, the parents’ relationship to the child, etc. Therefore, this standard should also be your guide as you create a new lifestyle for yourself and your child.
Here are some questions to ask yourself when determining what is in your child’s best interest:
1. Where will my child attend school after our divorce?
Divorce generally results in at least one parent moving away from the family home. Therefore, determining where your child will attend school is an integral part of establishing their visitation schedule. Depending on how far you or your spouse move from your child’s school, this issue alone may play a major part in determining physical custody.
2. Does my child have any special needs?
California courts often consider the medical, emotional, or psychological needs of a child when considering what is in their best interest. Whichever parent primarily cared for these needs prior to the divorce may continue to do so. However, if both parents assisted equally and are able to do so after the divorce, this issue may not play into the judge’s decision at all.
3. What is a reasonable way to divide our special occasions?
When discussing physical custody of your child, you will have to make concessions for special occasions from the beginning. This type of planning helps avoid conflict or last-minute arguments as occasions arise. For example, you ought to discuss with your ex-spouse, child, and/or attorney any plans for occasions such as birthdays, holidays, school breaks, family vacations, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and long weekends.
4. Will my ex-spouse and I be able to co-parent?
This question is critical. The term “custody” really encompasses two legal terms: legal custody and physical custody. Physical custody agreements identify where the child will live and when. On the other hand, legal custody agreements identify which parent or parents will make decisions about medical, religious, and educational questions. Both types of custody can be joint (shared) or sole.
If you and your ex-spouse’s relationship prevents you from making decisions together, you may want to consider seeking sole legal custody. However, if communicating about your child is not a problem, joint legal custody may be your best option.
5. Do I have any concerns about my ex-spouse caring for our child?
This question encompasses many others, including:
- Does my ex-spouse understand age-appropriate activities for our child?
- Are my ex-spouse’s family members going to be caring for our child at times?
- Does my ex-spouse have the proper car seat or seat belts in their car?
- Do they smoke or drink around our child?
- Do they understand our child’s dietary needs?
If you have concerns about your ex-spouse caring for your child in your absence, you must raise them before you or a judge makes a custody decision. Changing a custody agreement is not as easy as starting a new one.
Low-Cost Help For Child Custody Issues in California Divorce
If you need to address issues about child custody, child visitation, and/or child support in a divorce or other type of separation in California, contact A People’s Choice for help. Hiring a registered legal document assistant is a great, low-cost alternative to hiring an attorney.
A People’s Choice can help you prepare all required legal documents without having to hire a lawyer. Plus, although A People’s Choice cannot provide legal advice, we can help you prepare a mutually agreeable child custody agreement. Furthermore, we can help you file the necessary paperwork for all issues of child custody, child visitation, child support, and other divorce-related issues. Visit our website for more information about child custody and divorce in California.