Divorce is a difficult process for both parents and children, but there are ways to make it easier on everyone. Establishing a reasonable custody arrangement, for instance, can help provide stability and peace of mind during this turbulent time.
To help divorcing parents constructively manage child custody issues, we've compiled these top four tips. These come from our experienced legal team. Whether you're working out the details with your co-parent or navigating court proceedings, this list can help arm you with information that will help you achieve a fair and effective outcome.
Remember, however, that this is a broad overview of the topic. For grounded, specific guidance, make sure to reach out to The Law Office of David A. Martin & Associates.
California’s Child Custody Laws and Regulations
In California, courts make child custody decisions based on the child's best interest. The parents’ wishes always come second.
Judges consider factors such as:
- The child’s age
- Parents’ lifestyles
- Emotional ties to each parent
- Healthcare needs of both parents and children
- The parent’s ability to provide a stable, safe environment
There are two types of custody: legal and physical.
- Legal custody is the right to make important decisions on behalf of the child, such as in healthcare and educational matters.
- Physical custody refers to where the child lives. If you have joint physical custody, then one parent is the primary custodian. This means that the other will have the kids for extended periods such as weekends or vacations.
(This is not the same as visitation, which is scheduled time you spend with the child. Visitation assumes that the child will return to their custodial home when the visit ends.)
Tip #1: Be Prepared to Compromise
Each parent may have different ideas on parenting and visions for the future, but remember that raising kids is a team effort, even when you aren’t together. Compromising can help make sure that everyone's needs are met.
Negotiations might involve some difficult conversations. For some, even broaching the subject can be a problem. After all, there is a reason you are getting divorced, and communication is probably a big part of it.
Mediation can help. In this process, a legal professional works for both parties, helping them come to mutually beneficial agreements. It is not a situation where one tries to “win.” Rather, the goal is to keep both parties as satisfied as possible.
Tip #2: Put the Children’s Needs First
Your top priority should always be your child’s well-being. This means considering their emotional health, physical safety, and a stable lifestyle. When you truly put their needs above your own, it will be easier to make concessions when needed.
Stability is important for children, especially during a turbulent time. Try to keep their daily routine as consistent as possible. It helps to keep them in the same school, maintain their after-school activities, and honor all visitation schedules. A consistent routine can provide a sense of security and normalcy during this transition.
Whenever possible, do not involve them in the divorce proceedings. Don’t talk to them about what’s happening, and try to let them live their lives without worrying about you. Sometimes it becomes necessary to involve them in the divorce, such as in a courtroom proceeding. Even so, try to make this time as smooth as possible without disrupting their lives.
Tip #3: Communicate Effectively with Your Ex-Spouse
This is sometimes easier said than done. When communicating, stay focused on the primary goal: your children's best interests. Your next goal, which is almost as important, is maintaining a respectful relationship with your ex.
It’s helpful to approach conversations with "I" statements instead of "you" statements. When people hear “you,” they can’t help but take whatever you’re saying personally, no matter how respectful you are. By making your statements about yourself, you can help keep your ex from feeling attacked.
Also, practice your active listening skills. Avoid interrupting your ex-spouse while they are speaking. When you run into disagreements, stay calm and respectful, and consider seeking help from a mediator or family counselor. Successful co-parenting is possible with effective communication and a commitment to putting your children first.
Tip #4: Speak with a Good Attorney
An experienced lawyer can help you understand your options in a child custody case. From sole to joint custody arrangements, this is a wide variety of ways to meet everyone’s needs. Your attorney can review your case and help make a plan that suits you and your family.
Additionally, a legal professional can help with paperwork preparation, making legal arguments, and negotiating with other parties. With a lawyer by your side, you can have confidence that you are making informed decisions.
Our firm can help you create a fair, pragmatic custody agreement. For a free consultation, call (916) 299-3936 or contact us online.