If you and your ex-spouse were able to agree between yourselves about parenting time, you are among the lucky ones. If not, you are about to find out how frustratingly vague California child custody laws can be. There is no simple formula for determining how many days the children should spend with each parent. When the parents’ wishes are mutually exclusive, such as if Dad wants the kids to attend school in Sacramento, where he lives, but Mom wants them to attend school in San Diego, there is no compromise, and the judge must decide based on the children’s best interests. Getting involved in child custody litigation is no fun, but it is some consolation that many people represent themselves in child custody cases, so it is not necessary to spend money you do not have on a lawyer. It is, however, a wise and affordable investment to have a California non-attorney legal document assistant prepare the court documents for your child custody case and navigate confusing California child custody laws.
What Does the Child’s Best Interest Mean Under California Child Custody Laws?
Unfortunately, the definition of “the child’s best interest” is frustratingly difficult to pin down in California case law. These are some things that the court aims to enable children to have:
- Physical safety and adequate medical care
- A stable relationship with both parents
- Continuity, meaning that they do not move residences or change schools frequently
As far as the court is concerned, the organic food, screen time, makeup, and all the other things that parents disagree on are all just details. Of course, in extreme cases, the court will intervene. The court will take a position if one parent thinks a teen needs treatment for an eating disorder while the other encourages her to follow a restricted diet (of course, the court will consider the opinions of the child’s doctors), but not if one parent keeps a vegan home while the other allows the child to eat fast food on a fairly frequent basis.
Saying negative things about your ex will always backfire. The court will always give preference to the parent who encourages the children to be on good terms with the ex-spouse.
What is the Custody and Visitation Status Quo?
California child custody laws and the courts attempt to minimize disruption in the children’s lives. Unless you prove otherwise, the court assumes that both parents are able to care for the children well. In general, the courts prefer for children to stay in the same primary residence where they lived during the marriage, and to continue attending the same school. If you were the children’s primary caregiver during the marriage, you will probably continue in this role after the divorce, too.
Will the Family Law Court Separate Siblings in Child Custody Cases?
Whenever possible, California child custody laws encourage the court to keep siblings together. When the children are age 14 or older, the court considers their preferences in child custody decisions. It is possible that one child will choose to stay with Mom, and the other will choose to stay with Dad, and the court may grant their requests.
A People’ Choice Takes the Financial Stress Out of Child Custody Cases
You do not always need a lawyer if your ex-spouse wants to go to court about child custody. Although navigating the California child custody laws may seem daunting, their is an easier option. Contact A People’s Choice to have your family law documents professionally prepared by a registered legal document assistant.
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