SANTA ROSA FAMILY LAWYER BLOG

Articles Posted in Child Custody

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girl with mother in the parkOne critical child custody question for someone facing divorce. What will happen to the children?. Where custody is in dispute, divorcing spouses must rely on a court to make a decision regarding child custody. Many parents approach custody hearings wondering whether the court will give preference to a child’s mother over the father.

Child Custody in California

Under California law, child custody actually includes two types of custody: physical and legal. Physical custody refers to the actual place where the child will live–the child’s legal residence. A parent who has physical custody has the primary responsibility to house, feed, and care for the child. Legal custody refers to the right to make decisions for the child, such as decisions regarding the child’s education, schooling, health, religion, or the like.

A court can award physical and legal custody to both parents (joint custody) or to one of the parents (sole custody). A court may also grant physical custody to one parent while granting legal custody to another. It is not unusual for a court to grant physical custody to one of the parents while determining that both parents will maintain legal custody (e.g., make decisions regarding the child’s upbringing). Additionally, the court will often grant the non-custodial parent certain visitation rights.

What Happens In A Dispute About a Child?

Child custody decisions are complex and may result in many different types of outcomes. Where parents are able to co-parent a child and agree to share in parental responsibilities, a court may award legal and physical custody to both parents (e.g., joint custody). Likewise, when there is only one parent in the picture, the court may award legal and physical custody to the parent who is still around (e.g., sole custody). Courts may struggle though when both parents want custody of a child but will not agree to joint custody. In these situations, California courts must act in the best interests of the child.

Do Mothers Have an Advantage in Custody Disputes?

Legally, a court must act in the best interests of the child when determining custody. To do this, the court will consider a number of factors, including:

  • The emotional bonds between the child and the parents;
  • The ability of a parent to provide for the child, including income, job history, etc.;
  • The criminal history of a parent;
  • Whether there exists a history of physical or sexual abuse;
  • The presence and nature of substance abuse problems;
  • Any relevant characteristics of a parent, including race, age, gender, sexual preference, etc.;
  • Any physical or emotional handicaps;
  • The geographic locations of parties involved; and
  • The needs of related parties, such as siblings or other family members.

It may surprise some that courts do not favor mothers over fathers in custody disputes. The only issue is what will be best for the child. Under this standard, neither father nor mother has any advantage. However, the court will make its decision based on the unique circumstances of each family.

Many parents feel that children should get to choose which parent should be given custody. In many circumstances, a court will consider a child’s preferences, but these preferences are not a controlling factor.

Getting Legal Help with Child Custody in Santa Rosa California

Child Custody disputes are difficult and may have a lasting impact on you and your family. If you involved in a custody dispute, Beck Law P.C. can help you. The family law attorneys at Beck Law P.C. can answer your questions and help you prepare for your custody proceeding. For a free consultation regarding child custody, divorce, or any other family law question, contact Beck Law P.C. at 707-five seven six-7175 or visit us online.

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CHILD CUSTODY BASICS

CO-PARENTING AFTER DIVORCE OR SEPARATION

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The role of co-parenting after divorce. A divorce or separation can be extremely difficult on a couple’s children. All of a sudden, the kids go from living in a seemingly stable two-parent household to being caught in the middle of a bitter break-up. In particular, having to go back and forth between the father’s house and the mother’s house can be a traumatic change. There is no way to completely shield children from the negative effects of this process. However, by putting in place a good co-parenting plan, the separating couple can ease some of the difficulty for their children.

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Strategies for an Effective Co-Parenting Arrangement

Here are some suggestions for creating a co-parenting arrangement that works for everyone:

1.    Put your children first: Always remember that your children’s interests are the most important consideration. Their childhood experiences will shape them for the rest of their lives, so it is imperative that you protect them from conflict and negativity as much as possible.

2.    Get a court order: This will make your co-parenting plan legally enforceable, meaning you will have a remedy in the event that your ex violates the terms of the agreement.

3.    Live near your ex: Whenever possible, it is advisable for the two parents to live near each other, so that the children can regularly and easily spend time with both of them.

4.    Respect each other’s parenting style: While the couple’s parenting styles may differ significantly, it is desirable that they respect each other’s methods. Otherwise, they end up undermining each other and confusing their children when it comes to expectations and boundaries.

5.    Communicate with each other: Both parents need to be able to communicate regularly and effectively, so that you both know what is going on in your children’s lives. This will help avoid misunderstandings, both with each other and with your children.

6.    Stay involved in your children’s activities: Both parents should stay as involved as possible in their kids’ school and extracurricular activities. Even if the parents would prefer not to be near each other, it is important that they can be civil with each other when they are in public or with their children.

7.    Create a shared document that both parents can access:  You should develop a Google Doc or other cloud-based document that both parents can access and utilize to share information about their kids. You can use this document to, among other things, coordinate scheduling and maintain emergency contact numbers.

8.    Hire an attorney: Each parent should hire their own attorney who has experience drafting co-parenting plans. Having an attorney on retainer will come in especially handy if there are child support or custody issues involved in the divorce or separation.

What to Do if You Have Children and Are Separating from Your Spouse

If you have children and are going through a divorce or separation with your spouse, you should contact an attorney immediately. An attorney can review the facts of your case and provide you with advice and guidance regarding your concerns.

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BODE MILLER CHILD CUSTODY DISPUTE CASE MAY HAVE MAJOR IMPLICATIONS

CHILD CUSTODY BASICS

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You may have seen the cursing toddler viral video of a two-year-old Omaha, Nebraska, toddler repeating curse words as a group of adults teach him and cheer him on. The video was released by the Omaha Police Department, ostensibly as a way of drawing attention to some of the problems the city faces. The video sparked outrage, directed at both the police for releasing the video, and the boy’s mother for putting her son into that environment. Some people even accused the 17-year-old mother of child endangerment, and demanded that the state forcibly remove the child from the mother’s custody.

SwearingCursing toddler to remain with mother

The mother did not make matters any better when she defended her son and herself from critics, stating that she was out of the room when filming occurred and that her son does not normally talk that way. However, an Omaha juvenile court judge ruled that the mother can maintain custody of her son, and both mother and son would be placed with the same foster family. After the video went viral, the mother and son were both removed from their home and placed in child protective custody. Their removal actually had very little to do with the video. Authorities said adults in the household “repeatedly allowed known gang members into their home.” At one point the state even tried to help relocate the family out of Omaha.

Child Endangerment Can Lead to Parents Losing Children

The state can take a child from his parents if it determines that the child has been severely neglected or abused. This can take many forms, such as ignoring a child’s medical needs, allowing him to become obese, expressing extreme disinterest in the child, or inflicting severe emotional damage to the child. In this case, the mother allowed her child to have continual contact with adults who clearly were not interested in the child’s well-being, and actively inflicted emotional harm on him. The judge apparently determined that the mother was more a victim than victimizer, and therefore should not lose custody of her son.

There are other factors that often lead to parents losing custody of their children. One is abandonment, in which the parent or parents simply leave the child on the street, with a relative, or with a foster family. Along the same lines, parents who fail to support or maintain contact with their children can lose custody. Parents who suffer from long-term mental illness or addiction can have their children removed from the home if the state determines that such action is in the best interests of the children. Long-term incarceration can lead to loss of custody, for obvious reasons. Finally, failure to follow the directives of child services can result in a loss of custody.

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Bode Miller and his ex-girlfriend are engaged in a unique custody dispute that could have major consequences for this area of law. Many Americans watched skier Bode Miller compete in the Sochi Winter Olympics over the past two weeks, as he capped off his legendary career with a bronze medal in the Super G event. He also generated a great deal of sympathy from viewers around the world when he broke down in tears during his post-race interview. But a custody dispute story involving Miller has made headlines in the world of family law, even as it was swept aside during the television coverage of the Olympics.

Skier The conflict centers on Miller’s ex-girlfriend’s decision to move to another state while she was pregnant with Miller’s child, but after they had broken up. The issue is whether she had a right to do this and what implications her decision has for deciding custody of the child.

Custody Dispute initiated in Moving From California to New York

Miller, who lives in southern California, dated the mother of his child for a few months in 2012. Before they broke up, she became pregnant with his son. In November 2012, Miller (who had married another woman by this point) filed a “Petition to Establish Parental Relationship” in California. The next month, while she was seven months pregnant, the mother moved to New York in order to attend Columbia University.

Two days after the baby was born in February 2013, the mother went to a New York Family Court to petition for custody. Under New York law, the child’s “home state” has jurisdiction over any custody case that arises. However, the family judge ruled that the case should be sent to California, accusing the mother of moving to New York for the purpose of finding a more friendly court. The California family court then awarded custody to Miller and his wife.

The mother appealed the New York decision, and a five-judge panel ruled in November 2013 that her rights had been violated and that New York should have jurisdiction over the case. Since then, California and New York have been engaged in a legal dispute over jurisdiction, with the parties caught in the middle. The baby has mostly remained with Miller and his wife, with the mother getting occasional visitation.

Outcome Could Shape Future Custody Disputes

Most likely, the courts will eventually determine that New York should have jurisdiction, since the mother moved there before the baby was born. If Miller wants to contest custody, he may have to do so in New York courts. However, that will still leave the thornier issue of how to deal with custody when, after a baby’s birth, one parent wants to move far away and the other wants to play an active role in the child’s life. Perhaps this case will provide some clarity for these disputes moving forward.

What to Do if You Are Involved in a Custody Dispute

If you are involved in a custody dispute with a former partner, you should contact a family law attorney immediately. An attorney can review the facts of your case and provide you with advice and guidance regarding your concerns.

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Child Custody Basics

New California Child Custody Legislation Allows More Than Two Individuals to be Recognized as a Child’s Legal Parents

Photo Credit: ClickFlashPhotos / Nicki Varkevisser via Compfight cc

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If a separating couple can agree on a parenting plan, the court will usually issue an order reflecting those terms.

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When a married couple with children decides to separate, one of the first steps they should take is to try and reach an agreement regarding how their children will be cared for after the separation occurs. In most cases, if the separating couple can agree on a parenting plan the court will issue a court order reflecting those terms.
The court will make a decision regarding custody and visitation when separating parents cannot reach an agreement.
When a separating couple cannot agree on a parenting plan, a judge will issue a decision regarding custody and visitation. This may take some time, because certain criteria will need to be met before a decision is issued. For example, separating parents are required to meet with a court appointed counselor. In some instances, the counselor will provide the judge with a recommendation regarding the appropriate child custody and visitation arrangement. In addition, the judge may order that some or all family members undergo psychological evaluations.

However, if there are immediate concerns that need to be addressed, the court will issue a temporary order. Circumstances that may require a temporary order include when one parent is moving to another jurisdiction and wants to take the children along or when parents cannot agree on what school their children should attend.
Before issuing a final custody and visitation determination, the judge will consider what arrangement is in the best interest of the child. This determination will be made based on the information gathered through evaluations and other information submitted to the court. In addition, if the children involved are, “of sufficient age and capacity to reason” the court may consider their wishes regarding custody and visitation.
Typically, custody will be awarded to one or both parents. However, if the court determines that awarding custody to either parent would be detrimental or harmful to the child, they may award custody to another adult. There are several types of custody that the court may consider:
Joint Legal Custody: This gives both parents the right and obligation to make significant decisions regarding their children’s health, welfare, and education.
Sole Legal Custody: This give one parent the right and obligation to make significant decisions regarding the children’s health, welfare, and education.
Joint Physical Custody: Children live with both parents, although not necessarily for equal amounts of time.
Sole Physical Custody: Children live with one parent and the other parent has visitation rights.

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Earlier this month, Governor Jerry Brown signed landmark child custody legislation that expands the authority of California family law courts when it comes to making child custody determinations. The new child custody legislation allows California family law courts to recognize three or more individuals as the legal parents of a child. Accordingly, a court’s child custody orders can require more than two individuals to share physical and/or financial responsibility for raising a child.

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Legislation was authored by Sen. Leno in order to ensure that California law reflected current family dynamics.
Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) authored the legislation in order to ensure that California’s family law provisions reflected changes in the way families are structured within the State. Specifically, to recognize the increasing number of same sex couples having children with a biological parents of the opposite sex.
In support of the measure, Senator Leno explained that California’s family law courts should be able to issue child custody rulings which recognize circumstances where multiple individuals act in a parental capacity by providing support and care for a child. He when on to explain that providing judges with the authority to issue rulings that would allow more than two parents to share custody of a child will help prevent situations where a child is forced to deal with separation from an individual they have always considered a parent and is therefore in their best interest.
Senator Leno authored the bill after a 2011 court decision, which sent the daughter of a same sex couple to foster care when both women lost custody. The girl was sent to foster care despite the fact that her biological father wanted to assume custody. The court reasoned that the biological father did not have parental rights.
Conservative groups opposed the legislation, viewing it as an attack on traditional families.
The measure was opposed by a number of conservative organizations who deemed the new legislation as an attack on traditional families. Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute, responded to news of Gov. Brown signing the new legislation by stating that he was disappointed in the decision. He argues that the legislation was a mistake because it will lead to more complicated family law proceedings that will be detrimental to children in the long run.
Last year, Gov. Brown vetoed a bill similar to the one signed into law on Friday. It is unclear what changed the Governor’s mind on the issue.

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HOW FAMOUS PEOPLE SUCH AS DANICA PATRICK, PAMELA ANDERSON, KATIE HOLMES, MICHAEL JACKSON AND STEVEN SPIELBERG DEAL WITH THE LEGALITIES OF A LONG TERM BREAK-UP

Hollywood.jpg Believe it or not, the odds of a marriage ending in divorce are the same for celebrities as they are for the rest of the population (currently 50%); however, attorneys handling high profile divorce must have the know-how and experience to maintain the high level of privacy necessary for the high profile clients. We at Beck Law maintain that privacy for every client, no matter the circumstance.

While Honey Boo Boo’s parents, June “Mama June” Shannon and Mike “Sugar Bear” Thompson, exchanged vows in their backyard in Georgia while Shannon sported a camouflage and orange tulle wedding gown (People reports), we find Danica Patrick, one of the most notable Formula, Indycar and NASCAR drivers in the history of American auto racing, ending her marriage to Paul Hospenthal as quietly and privately as possible, given her fame and fortune.

Some high end divorces last, well . . . not very long. For example: here is a link to famously short marriages that includes Kid Rock and Pamela Anderson (4 months), Rudolph Valentino and Jean Acker (6 hours), the famous Kim Kardashian marriage of 72 days and the Las Vegas marriage of Brittany Spears and Jason Alexander (55 hours). Further, celebrity divorce can be very expensive: Michael Jordan reportedly had to settle his divorce action for more than $150 million to his wife of 21 years. Steven Spielberg, worth about $3 billion, settled with Amy Irving after four years of marriage for $100 million.

Attorneys handling any divorce, including a high profile divorce, must keep in mind not only attorney-client privacy, but also protection of clients’ personal information as well. Not only must the attorney reach the best divorce settlement, an attorney representing a high profile client, or any divorce client, must consider the client’s image, the client’s wishes, the client’s children and family dynamics and how information in the legal proceedings is being distributed to the public; the attorney must adopt the mindset of a public relations expert to maintain the reputations and public images of all clients, including high profile clients.

Law firms, who handle divorce on a daily basis, should have sensitivity to their clients’ needs, and take extraordinary measures regarding resolving issues surrounding the emotional turmoil of the loss of marriage and the special needs of child custody and child visitation.

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Primary custody being sought by Usher Raymond’s ex-wife following the near drowning of Grammy winner Usher Raymond’s 5 year old son. Usher Raymond’s ex-wife Tameka Foster Raymond sought and was granted an emergency hearing in order to request custody of the former couple’s two children. The couple were married in 2007 and divorced two years later. Following a lengthy child custody battle, Mr. Raymond was awarded primary custody of both children.

The former couple’s son nearly drowned after being caught in a pool drain.

According to police reports, the couple’s son fell into the pool and was caught in the pool’s drain while under the supervision of Mr. Raymond’s aunt. A housekeeper tried to free the boy from the drain, but was unsuccessful. A contractor who was working on Mr. Raymond’s property was finally able to free Mr. Raymond’s son from the drain and perform CPR in order to revive the boy.

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The boy’s mother alleged that the children are not adequately supervised under Mr. Raymond’s care and that he does not keep her informed of who is taking care of the children when he is away.

Ms. Raymond’s request alleged that her son suffered from a near-death accident after being left unsupervised at the singer’s home while he was out of town. During the court hearing, which was held at the Fulton County Superior Court in Atlanta, Georgia, both parents took the stand and testified before the presiding judge. Ms. Raymond testified that her ex-husband does not keep her informed of the children’s whereabouts and whose care they are in when Mr. Raymond is out of town. However, testimony revealed that Mr. Raymond’s aunt was sitting poolside watching both children play in the pool. In addition, Mr. Raymond was not out of town, but rather at a music studio just an exit away.

Ms. Raymond’s request was denied, but the Court advised Mr. Raymond to keep her informed of who is taking care of the children when he is away.

The Court denied Ms. Raymond’s request for temporary primary custody, as well as decision making authority. The Judge reasoned that the testimony and other evidence submitted to the Court did not suggest that anything could have been done to prevent the accident. However, the Judge did advise Mr. Raymond to keep his ex-wife abreast of his whereabouts and who is supervising the children when they are not in his care.

California courts allow individuals to make emergency requests regarding visitation and custody orders in certain circumstances.

California also allows individuals to make an emergency request to the court to issue new custody or visitation orders or to change existing custody or visitation orders. This may be done in situations in which circumstances have occurred or may occur, such that it is in the best interest of the child for the court to modify their existing custody or visitation arrangements.

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In 2011, the California legislature passed a law that limited the parental rights of fathers as sperm donors in order to provide gay parents with greater legal protection in custody disputes.

California Governor Jerry Brown signed the Protection of Parent Child Relationships Act into law in August 2011. The bill passed the Senate by a 23-14 vote in July of that year. The bill was an effort by California legislators to provide gay parents with greater parental rights by making it more difficult for sperm donors to claim legal parentage.
Before the law went into effect, when a married couple or a couple in a registered domestic partnership had a child, they were deemed to be the child’s presumed legal parents. In addition, a man who believed he was the biological father of a child could sign a voluntary declaration of paternity, with the consent of the biological mother.

A 2009 California Court of Appeals decision held that in a dispute between a presumed father and an individual who had signed a voluntary declaration of paternity, regarding legal parentage, the latter would prevail. This was true even when the presumed father had raised the child since birth and the father who signed the voluntary declaration of paternity had neither an existing relationship with the child nor intended to have a relationship with the child in the future. baby feet.jpg

The Protection of Parent Child Relationships Act changed the existing law by requiring courts to consider and weigh claims presented by both a presumed parent and an individual who signed a voluntary declaration of paternity when the two parties had competing claims of parentage. In doing so, the legislature adhered to the California Supreme Court’s stance that biology does not override established parental relationships.

A recent case interpreted the law to deny a father parental rights after he had a child with his girlfriend using medical procedures.

In a recent custody dispute between “Lost Boys” actor, Jason Patric and his former girlfriend, the court cited the Protection of Parent Child Relationships Act to deem the mother as the sole parent. The mother used a medical procedure to conceive the child at issue, using Patric’s sperm. As such, the court treated him as a sperm donor and deemed that he could not be considered the child’s father.

Some have criticized the Protection of Parent Child Relationships Act, arguing that it creates a loophole which limits the parental rights of fathers when unmarried couples use medical procedures such as artificial insemination to conceive a child. They state that the Protection of Parent Child Relationships Act has been misinterpreted and does not reflect the modern family construct where an increasing number of unwed couples are choosing to have children, some with the help of fertility treatments.

Senate Bill 115 attempts to close the loophole provide by the Protection of Parent Child Relationships Act, but faces opposition.

In March, Senate Bill 115, which seeks to address this loophole, was introduced to the California Senate. It passed the Senate without a single opposition. However, it has faced controversy at the California Assembly. Some argue that Patric and his former girlfriend, who each hired lobbyists to push their position at the legislative level, should not be allowed to try and circumvent a court ruling in this manner. Others are concerned about how this law would be reconciled with another bill being considered by the legislature, which would allow children to have more than two legal parents. The Assembly’s Judiciary Committee has delayed its hearing on Senate Bill 115 until August.

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Surprised.jpgPresident Obama gave a Father’s Day speech in which he called for reforming child custody laws in order to allow fathers to become more engaged in their children’s lives. During divorce proceedings, fathers often feel disadvantaged when it comes to courts’ child custody determinations. These feelings are not always unwarranted.

Mothers receive primary custody in 70 percent of divorce cases.

Until the 1970’s, courts generally favored the mother when determining child custody arrangements. However, since then, the standard for determining child custody has been changed such that the ruling is based on what is in the best interest of the children. Despite this shift, the National Center for Health Statistics estimates that mothers are awarded primary custody of their children in approximately 70 percent of divorce cases.

Fathers often face hurdles such as, false accusations of child abuse or neglect. Moreover, during child custody proceedings, fathers often face false accusations of child abuse or neglect which they are forced to defend themselves against. Such allegations result in both emotional and financial strain. Defending against false accusations of child abuse or neglect can result in prolonged legal proceedings. In addition, fathers facing false accusations of child abuse or neglect are subject to limited and supervised visitation with their children.

In determining what is in the best interest of the child, courts consider which parent has the greatest involvement in the children’s day to day activities.

In order to determine what custody arrangement will allow the children to maintain the greatest level of normalcy during the divorce transition and thereafter. In addition to looking at whether a parent is financially capable of taking care of the children, courts will also look to see which parent had the greatest involvement in their children’s day to day activities.

Courts consider a number of factors when assessing each parent’s role in their children’s day to day activities and who served as the primary caretaker. These factors include: which parents helped the children get ready for school, which parents prepared meals for the children, which parent assisted the children with their homework, and which parent accompanied the children to their various activities.

California law requires couples to participate in mediation, providing an opportunity for parents to come up with their own agreement with the help of a mediator and their attorneys.

Under California law, parents are required to participate in mediation before a divorce proceeding can take place. This serves as an opportunity for parents to address child custody concerns and come up with a custody arrangement which they can both agree on with the help of a mediator, rather than having a custody arrangement imposed on their family by the courts.

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The Pitfalls of Relying on News Sources for Divorce Guidance
Mental Illness Can Lead to Termination of Parental Rights

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