Kathleen J. Smith, Attorney at Law

Keep this in mind during child custody proceedings

When you decided to divorce, your main focus centered on your children's best interests. You were careful in your choice of wording when you told your children about the situation. Your main goal was to negotiate a fair settlement that included an agreeable child custody plan. You hoped that you and your spouse could part as friends or, at least allies, regarding your co-parenting future together.  

When you realized that the two of you do not see eye-to-eye about child custody matters, you knew you'd be relying on the California court to make certain decisions and to help formulate a plan. When your goal is to avoid contention and to help your children cope with your divorce in as healthy a manner as possible, there are several things you'll want to keep in mind.  

It's about what is best for them 

You know your kids better than anyone, and, for the most part, the court trusts that you know what is best for them as well. However, when you and your ex do not agree on how to interpret that, the judge must step in and determine it for you. The following information includes helpful reminders that may apply to your situation:  

  • The court is not interested in all the things your spouse did to drive you crazy in marriage. Leaving laundry on the floor or spending more time with friends than you are not necessarily pertinent factors toward determining where your children should live or how often visitation should take place. 
  • If you request that court include certain rules in your custody agreement, keep in mind that you yourself will also be bound to adhere to those rules. 
  • It's never a good idea to try to use custody negotiations to get back at your spouse for hurt feelings that arose during marriage.
  • Trying to limit communication between your ex and your kids likely won't sit well with the judge, unless you have evidence that such interaction would be detrimental to them in some way. 
  • Child custody plans are not set in stone. While you and your co-parent must adhere to existing court orders, California law allows you to request modification of a court order if you have legitimate reason for doing so.  

Looking toward the future 

Most children fare best when a custody plan provides them ample opportunities to maintain healthy, active relationships with both parents following divorce. As you and your kids make plans for the future, it's always a good idea to have a support system in place to help you overcome any emotional, logistical, economic or legal problems that arise.

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