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Child Custody Rights

Securing and Protecting Your Parental Rights in a California Custody Battle

Unfortunately, the biggest battle ground in many divorces is the “battle” over the children. I say, “unfortunately”, because the psychological and emotional damage that parents cause their children in a combative divorce is the kind that can last a lifetime. Some parents are notoriously combative and manipulative in using their children as weapons to hurt the other parent or as bargaining chips to increase child support payments. If you are facing a contentious custody battle it is important that you talk to a lawyer right away and properly prepare yourself for the battle ahead.  

“Best Interest” of the Child Standard

Right to the Kids

As a family law lawyer I urge every client to consider the potentail damage to their child caused by a long drawn-out contentious court battle and attempts to interfere (either physically or emotionally) in the custodial rights of the other parent. Unfortunately, many divorcing parents are guilty of attempting to allienate their child from the other parent by actively interferring with or undermining the parent-child relationship. Sadly, this is the norm and not the exeption.

I urge every client to put their child first, to move past the hurt and anger they may have towards their soon-to-be-ex, and to never involve their child in parental conflicts.

With every new client, I do my best to inform my client of the law and the process by which custody and visitation matters are fought, decided and won.

The court system is bound by the requirement to make custody and visitation decisions based upon the “best interest” of the child standard. As an advocate for my client in a child-custody dispute, I try my best to explain the “best interest” of the child standard and how best to persuade the Court in favor of my client’s custodial requests. A strategic approach to convincing the Court that your custodial request is in the best interest of the child requires planning, preparation, and in some cases, modifications in the child’s home-life and active improvement in co-parenting skills. 

How to Win Your Santa Barbara Custody Case

To “win” a child custody case, you must usually demonstrate that you and your environment are most likely to serve the best interests of the child. Though determining what constitutes “best interest” is often subjective, it is important you stay focused on the holy grail trifecta of “health, safety and welfare of the child” at all times. The court will want assurances that the parent seeking custody can provide a safe, healthy and wholesome environment in which to raise the child. Courts will look to the stability of the parental residence (does the parent move around a lot or does he/she have a stable residential history), the urban or suburban settings in which the child is raised, the other residents of the household in which the child will be living, the presence or absence of a parent during the business day and on weekends, economic circumstances and child support obligations, bedroom space and other living arrangements, and any special needs the child may have.

Certainly, the “best interest” calculation includes the educational best interest of the child. The court will be interested in knowing which parent, and which household, is most likely to promote the academic objectives and educational success of the child.

More and more often the courts are favoring the parent who demonstrates the greater ability to communicate with the other parent and other family members. Courts also favor the parent who is most likely to cooperate with the parent in facilitating custodial time or complying with court orders. Moreover, communication and cooperation, or what some courts and psychologists refer to as co-parenting, are often given great weight in the child custody process.

How to Lose Your Santa Barbara Custody Case

California courts disfavor parents who refuse to comply with court orders, involve the child in custodial disputes, disparage the other parent in written or verbal communiations, create conflict in public places, such as the child’s school, doctor’s office, playground, friend’s house, sports activities, etc., or whose actions necessitate the involvement of police. When making custodial rulings, the court will review the record of cooperation between the parents. The parent with a history of violating the custodial rights of the other parent or who has refused to cooperate and interact in a peaceful manner with the other parent during custodial exchanges or visitation will not be favored. 

“Facts” vs. “Opinion”

Right to the Kids

The bottom line in arguing and winning your custody battle based on the “best interest” standard is recognizing the need to build a “fact” based case, not one based purely on your opinion or speculation as to the other parent’s character or parenting skills. Whether you “like” or “dislike” the other parent, or find them to be a jerk, lazy, cheap, manipulative, adulterer, fat, ugly, stupid, or hate their new girlfriend/boyfriend is irrelevant. Declarations filled with slander and emotional tirades against the other parent are par-for-the-course in family law proceedings, and a sure fire-way to lose the Court’s attention and respect. You need cold hard “facts” to support and establish why your custodial request is in the best interests of your child and you need admissible evidence to support those facts. You also need to embody those qualities which the Courts look to when awarding custody: such as your ability and interest in providing for the emotional, social, moral, material and educational needs of the child. You also need to demonstrate your ability to cooperate and communicate (or “co-parent”) with the other parent and to show your objective attempts to facilitate custodial rights or visitation when necessary.

The moral of the story is this: family law courts must shift through a mountain of name-calling, character assassinations, and out-and-out lies when making a custody decision. The parent who can demonstrate with objective facts that they are the parent with the best relationship with the child, that they are best able to meet the child’s needs on every level, and that they are the most suitable custodian based on character, temperament and stability will most likely win the day.

Let Us Fight For You

At The Law Office of Channe G. Coles, in Santa Barbara, California, we work diligently to help our clients establish and maintain meaningful parental relationships with their children. Attorney Channe G. Coles is knowledgeable of the law and practical in her approach. Our default position is not costly and fractions court battles. Rather, we first pursue cooperative negotiation and settlement to achieve a workable solution that protects our client's right and interest to a meaningful relationship with their child. However, if litigation becomes necessary or appears to be the best method of achieving your desired results, we won't hesitate in protecting the rights of you and your children in court. 

Contact Us Today

For a free initial consultation with the Law Office of Channe G. Coles, call (805) 617-4618 or send us an email. From our law office in downtown Santa Barbara, we serve clients throughout the county, including Buellton, Santa Ynez, Carpinteria, Goleta, Lompoc, Solvang, and Santa Maria.

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