I recently noticed that many Family Court litigants are clueless about filing and using the correct documents in their custody cases. There are different documents for diverse types of cases of course. But there are times when it is not just the type of case that matters, it is its purpose. There are petitions, complaints, responses, objections, oppositions, motions, show causes, cross-motions, cross-petition, and counterclaims. So, let’s discuss all family court documents in custody:

Type of Family Court Case

In Family Court, custody cases can go on forever.  In fact, they typically do.  If you are in court on custody once, you can almost bet on being back over the course of your child’s life until the age of majority.  So, there is a difference, for example, in an initial case for Custody or Visitation and a Modification or Contempt case. The difference affects how the case will proceed, which rules apply and how they apply.  So, an initial custody case might consist of the initial Complaint and maybe a Cross-Complaint as far as documents (pleadings). This is so because the parties are only trying to establish some sort of guidelines or parameters to co-parent.  It is not uncommon that the parties are unaware of all the issues that may become an issue later.


Strategic Plan in Divorce or Custody


Purpose of Family Court Documents in Custody

The other issue is what your objective is in the case.  If you are seeking to shed light on the lies, deception, and false statements, then you might need to file a Response or Opposition. If your intentions are to present your own version of the circumstances, then you might want to file a Cross-Petition or Cross-Motion.  But even further, if you have your own separate demands, then you should most certainly file a Cross-Motion or Cross-Petition in the custody or visitation case.

The document you file will still depend on the type of case, but your purpose for the document is important.

Procedure for Documents

Every single state has its own set of procedural rules when it comes to drafting, filing, and serving custody or visitation documents. They also have specific time frames and deadlines within which specific documents need to be filed. This is extremely important to know because it can affect how you choose to proceed. If you realize at some point in your case, that you should file a Cross-Petition what are your options?

Well, that depends on the point in which you realized it. Can you file a Cross-Petition at the time the case is scheduled for a hearing? If not, what can you do instead? These are all particularly important to know as you navigate your way through your case. You might not be able to, but you can ask for the court’s permission to file an Objection or Opposition. Or maybe you can get the court’s permission to extend the time for hearing/trial until you are able to have your Cross-Petition added to the court’s docket. The way you proceed is dictated by your court’s procedural rules as well as its administrative process.

How it All Comes into Play?

For those of you who do not know, my focus is always on the strategic aspect of custody cases.  My unique approach takes a bird’s eye view of each case and produces a precise plan to help litigants reach their goals.  This means that each of the elements I discussed above plays an important role.  Timing, wording, positioning, etc. all these interplay in how a case should be presented for court success.  So sometimes you might have missed a document filing deadline, but might be able to get on your side of the story another way. Therefore, it is critical to have these concepts in mind the moment you see yourself headed down this path.

In Conclusion

It is extremely important that you are aware of your local court procedures, how to navigate your way around the court (and the website), and that you learn the different forms and their use.  This knowledge can impact the overall outcome of your custody case.

In the world of family law, there’s a widely known term, Disneyland Dad, or Mom, in custody disputes. This term refers to the noncustodial parent who makes their time with the child more fun for the child. The term implies that their motives for doing this are to persuade or influence the child towards them over the other. This usually creates problems for the custodial parent who must “compete” with them.

 

What Qualifies as Disneyland Dad or Mom?

 A noncustodial parent does things to gain their child’s affection in several ways.  These include buying them expensive gifts, letting them have longer curfews, allowing them to have a boyfriend or girlfriend. Basically, the noncustodial parent will purposely give the child things the other parent afford or allow them to do things the other parent does not. Their intention is clearly to be seen as the more likable or “cool” parent. Oftentimes the Disneyland parent goes out of their way to treat their child as their friend or peer instead of a child. They also employ other friends, significant others and/or family members to help them overextend their level of kindness.


Strategic Plan in Divorce or Custody


The parent who does this is usually motivated by their own selfishness. Because if they were concerned about their children, they would respect the boundaries imposed by the custodial parent.

Some Disneyland parents merely use these tactics as a means to be vindicated for being absent or abusive during the child’s life.  On the other hand, the narcissistic noncustodial parents’ motives are different. Their motives are usually control, manipulation, and vindictiveness. In these instances, there is no sound basis or justification for the behaviors.

How Does being a Disneyland Dad or Mom Impact the Best Interests Factors?

The best interests factors for each state varies. Some states put more emphasis on certain issues than others. Not to mention, some states put to give more consideration to some factors than others. The best interests factors require the court to look at them in order to decide what’s for the child’s wellbeing. The child’s mental, emotional, physical, and intellectual well-being are the underlying concerns in every case.

How the Disneyland parent’s behaviors get factored into custody determinations depends on these two things: the actual factors and how their behavior directly tie in and how their behavior affects the overall custody disputes.   The former is a direct application of the court’s standards, while the latter is indirect.  Both perspectives certainly have an impact on child custody cases, but for different reasons.

Applying the Best Interests Factors to Disneyland Dad or Mom

First, let’s look at Disneyland Dad or Mom and the best interests factors overall. The issues that come into play are the parent’s refusal, or inability, to set and maintain boundaries. This can certainly raise concerns with respect to the child’s mental, as well as physical, wellbeing. Mental well-being emphasizes the parent’s responsibility to ensure that the child develops into adulthood in a way that is adaptable. In other words, preparing them for growing up with the tools they need to maintain relationships, employment, Etc. Although parents want to ensure their children are happy, they should balance this intention with maintaining safe boundaries.

A. Factors Directly Related to Coparenting-

Next, the Disneyland Dad or Mom’s own mental or emotional health can be called into question under the best interests application.  The parent’s health, particularly their mental health, is often made obvious by their actions.  Their decision to manipulate their children in this way certainly calls attention to their mental health.

Another factor that might be triggered by the behaviors of the Disneyland Dad or Mom is the one that examines each parent’s ability to maintain or facilitate a meaningful relationship with the other. When one parent is intentionally ignoring or violating boundaries set by the other, it is obvious that they don’t care about maintaining a healthy parenting or co-parenting relationship.

And last, financial stability or standard of home environment also come into play with Disneyland Dad or Mom situations.   This is a huge concern when there is an imbalance in financial resources between the two parent’s homes.  The Disneyland parent usually has more resources and is able to shower the kids with gifts.  Alternatively, the Disneyland parent might have more free time, making them more able to do “fun” things with the children.  Either way, having more of what the child wants makes it hard to challenge this factor when the other parent doesn’t have the luxury.

B. Factors Directly to the Parent-Child Relationship

Another factor that can impact the Disneyland Dad or Mom’s choice to act this way is the child’s preference to live with either parent.  Clearly, their intention is to persuade or influence the child, and most times they are successful. Successful enough to influence the child’s choice about who they prefer to live with.  Of course, younger children don’t really have much say, but this certainly applies to the older ones.

And last, the relationship between the parent and child is most definitely a factor too.  The courts inherently look at the bond between each parent and their child(ren) when deciding custody.   And when the bond is strained or strengthened by deliberate acts of the other, there is cause for concern.

How to Defend against a Disneyland Dad or Mom in Custody Disputes?

There are several things you can do to defend against parents who use their resources to intentionally influence your child.  And although there are practical, moral, and emotional implications, you should try to focus on what you can control.  You can’t control the other parent’s behavior, nor can the courts actually, but you have some control over your children.

You need to work at ensuring your children receive the time and attention you have.  This means that you are not competing with the other parent.  You should use the time you have with your children in a meaningful way.  Instead of focusing on the things the other parent did or bought, for example, you redirect your children to what you are doing with them.

In court, you can focus on the specific best-interests factors that are in your favor.  You are a good parent merely because you are fighting to be a parent.  You might not be the “best” parent, but you most certainly are just as “fit” as the other parent. Use those “fit” factors to your advantage.  No one scores high on all factors, if they did they would not be in custody disputes.

In Conclusion

Don’t accept defeat in the custody disputes by being up against a Disneyland Dad or Mom.   You can work with what you have and still be acknowledged for being a “good” parent.

Strategic plan family court
Strategic Plan Divorce Custody

Creating a strategic plan in business is a must if that business wants to increase its chances of success. Having one usually indicates that the business is serious about mapping its short and long-term goals. It also means that they are dedicated to putting measures in place to reach them. Having a detailed plan based on your values and beliefs is a win-win. So why wouldn’t you create one for any aspect of your personal life? Particularly where the goals are extremely important and significant, why not plot out a plan. A strategic plan in divorce or custody is brilliant.

Your divorce or custody is more than likely consuming a huge part of your life… right? I mean it does not matter who you are, where you are located, how much money you have it’s daunting.  The Family Court experience is full of surprises. And one of the best ways to prepare for the unexpected is to prepare for the unexpected. A strategic plan is certain to do just that.


Imbalance of Power Custody Divorce


What is a Strategic Plan?

A strategic plan in divorce or custody is a roadmap that sets specific goals for your case. It considers all the facts & information relevant to your issues, no matter the source. It then requires you to use this data to focus on your personal values and beliefs to create a vision. This vision is made up of your long and short-term goals for yourself and your family. Then, creating a specific layout to achieve those goals requires a deeper understanding of the information gathered. The layout incorporates your strengths and weaknesses, measured against threats and opportunities.  This results in you producing a course of action to reach those goals. It is a roadmap, diagram, course of action, game plan to achieve success in Family Court.

Why Should You Have a Strategic Plan for your Family Court case?

As I mentioned, having a strategic plan increases your chances of success no matter what area of your life. And the reality is that you want to get the results you want no matter which side you are on in divorce or custody. Having a plan helps you to map out your goals for your family.

These goals include-

All these goals might have a place in your short and long-term goals. It is for you to decide which ones do and how to prioritize them. Because how you approach them depends on how important they are to you. And the more aligned the two are increased chances of success.

How Do You Create Strategic Plan?

The first step is to take an honest look at your current situation. This is difficult to do, but it needs to be done with as much objectivity as possible. You must dig deep and look wide to assess your financial, personal, emotional/mental, and legal circumstances. It is best that you take your time with this part because any oversights can ruin your efforts overall. Also, it is important to ask trusted loved ones for their insight as well to ensure that the assessment is accurate.

Next, you will spend time creating a detailed list of your opposing party’s position.  Look at the things they are requesting, their current situation, their past behaviors, etc. You do not have to be 100% accurate, but the more you are able to the better.

Then you will need to look at both lists to help you to create your vision. Your vision should consist of what your future family life looks like. For example, what does co-parent look like, what is your future financial situation, and so on.

From there, you will need to identify your strengths and weaknesses. This means classifying those things you produced in the first step, as strengths or weaknesses. They can be physical, legal, practical, financial or anything that has a direct impact on your divorce or custody.

After that, you will need to go beyond your lists to gather information directly related to the legal aspects of your family law case.  This includes your opponent’s position, the court venue/jurisdiction, policy issues, the laws, the judges, basically anything that is outside of your control.

Once you have gone through all these steps, you are able to create a plan by applying these to your overall goals.

When Should You Create a Strategic Plan?

Right now! Contact me to discuss how I can help.

Results of Having a Strategic Plan

You are better able to circumvent the destructive practices of the Family Court. Not only are you more prepared to deal with the Family Court’s bias and unfair treatment, but you also build confidence as a result.

Choosing to be Pro Se, as opposed to having an attorney, can be strategic.  Although most jurists discourage Family Court parties represent themselves, there are times when it’s advantageous.

Being a victim of your opponent is also off the table. Having a plan in place helps to become empowered. The exercise of creating the strategy is itself is empowering.

Having a better understanding of the Family Court process is also an advantage of having a strategic plan. Every step of the process covers every facet of the Family Court journey, and that is by design. You will most certainly be able to highlight the issues that are most important to the judge, which is extremely important.

In Conclusion

So, if you want to increase your chances of “winning” this is an excellent start. There is endless data on the importance of having a strategic plan in place. Even though the data available relates to business strategic plans, there is no sound reason it would not apply in divorce or custody.

If you would like to see how I can help you create the best Strategic Plan for your specific case, please visit here.

Related Tag: Child Custody

This strategic action plan workbook is 27 pages of extremely useful tips & resources; exercises; worksheets and MUCH MORE!!!

About the Family Court Strategic Action Plan Workbook:

Family Court parties are usually the most overwhelmed, disappointed and victimized of any other court venue.  For several reasons, people that are embroiled in a Family Court, either divorce or custody, case often feel like they are at their wits end fighting for their families.  One of the main reasons parties feel disappointed and discouraged is because of the lawyers failure to provide adequate representation.  Another major reason, is because the Family Court system is destructive to families.  The laws are often overlooked, the procedures are applies arbitrarily and the judges are extremely biased.  So what are the parties to do when they are forced to litigate their case in court in spite of all of these flaws?  What they should do is not give up….NEVER give up! They owe it to their children to speak up for them, to ensure that their well-being is not overlooked and to protect their future.


Your Support System, “Village”: Key Part of Your Strategic Plan


There is a saying “if you can’t beat them then join them”.  This is definitely applicable and justified in Family Court.  It’s a system that can’t “beat” because they have the power and the authority.  So you can “join” them or align with the court by learning to “play” by their rules. How do you do that? I’m glad you ask.  You need to use something that IS on your side….STRATEGY!  The judge and court have the law and power and authority……………..but you have STRATEGY!

What is STRATEGY and how does it even apply to your Family Court case?  It is the practical and tactical steps you take to achieve your specific goal.  Strategy can apply to any aspect of life where you set goals, aspirations, missions, etc. It’s a matter of  deciding that you will do whatever it takes to achieve success by reaching those goals.  You do have goals in mind with respect to your Family Court case, right?  I mean you are not blindly going through the process without a desired outcome are you?  Well, even if you have been up til this point, it’s time to change that.  You need to approach this aspect of your life as if your life depended on it, because in all reality this is YOUR LIFE!

Strategy is where the practical and the legal overlap.   There is a practical path to get through the process in addition to the legal one.  The problem is that lawyers are only concerned with the legal path.  And the practical side is often overlooked or misguided because litigants need guidance here too.  So, what typically happens in this instance. The parties wind up being forced to settle or getting slammed at trial and feeling victimized by the whole ordeal.  No one wins in Family Court, but not everybody has to lose it all either. But had a solid strategy been developed, followed and revised when necessary, the outcome would have been different.

That’s what this Workbook helps the user to develop, strategy.  It provides information and exercises that will help the user develop a strategy using a step by step process.

It Includes:

This is ideal for ANYONE going through Family Court, divorce or custody case, that would like to approach the process from a proactive stance.   Whether self-represented or represented by an attorney, this Workbook will supplement anything you’ve been using to help you navigate your case.  As a first step or supplement to what you’re already doing, this is a very valuable resource for any Family Court litigant.

If you are interested in other services to supplement the workbook, i.e. consulting/coaching, Group/Membership programs or other Unbundled Services, please feel free to schedule a call to discuss them today.

Your Support System, “Village” in your Strategic Plan

One major component of strategic planning is having a support system or a “village”. Not just any support system but one comprised of people with various backgrounds or roles. Of course, having family, friends, support groups, etc. is important during divorce or custody.  Your friend who has never been married has a perspective that’s different than your great-aunt who has been for 50 years. The roles or positions each of them plays, particularly because of their life experiences, is even more critical.  The reason being, you are more able to anticipate your ex’s or soon to be ex’s moves when you have different perspectives to consider. As you know, everything for me is about strategy, so being able to foresee your opponent moves is key.

 


Using Cost-Benefit Analysis to Your Benefit in Family Court


 

Assess Your Values

Everyone has or should have a role in your divorce or custody situation and their role serves a purpose. Family/friends, mental health professionals, legal experts, financial services and so on. When you take a good long look at your values, you can use the members of your support system as a guide.  Your values force you to look at the things that matter most to you and how much you want to honor them.  That means, family, health, happiness, etc., these elements should not be viewed in a vacuum.

 

Know Your Mission

This requires a look at your life journey and purpose.  It includes those values you assessed earlier on, but now has you putting those in perspective.  You should have an overall vision of where you are headed in your life post-divorce or custody (although custody can go on what seems like an eternity.) Your village also plays a part in your vision.  They can help you get there in a theoretical sense, as well as a practical one.

Divorce and custody can…I’m sorry…it will, completely uproot your life.   Your financial situation drastically changes, your emotional state is forever distorted and your mental being is constantly challenged. Your mission for your life as a spouse or even before parenthood completely changes once you are enthralled in divorce or custody.

 

Your Analysis

You need to do a SWOT on yourself and on your overall case.  Yes, you took time to assess your values, dug deeper to come up with a mission, now you need to look at your personal self.  But here’s the thing, you shouldn’t do this on your own.  Your strong and diverse support system will be ideal in helping you in this phase of your strategy.   Your SWOT analysis requires you to look at your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

Identifying your strengths, with respect to the divorce or custody, directs you (or your village) to look at the advantages you have over your ex or soon to be ex; the values that you have that they don’t; the resources you have and so on.

Your weaknesses, where it’s harder to be objective, looks at the areas you lack confidence; the limited resources available to you; your personality traits that make you vulnerable in this particular situation and so on.

The opportunities available to you include things like, the help and support your village can provide in the deficient areas; the ability for you to acquire skills to improve your limitations and so on.

Pinpointing threats forces you to look at obstacles that stand in your way; the potential for any change in your other positions to become a detriment and so on.

The SWOT analysis must be done very carefully, honestly, and methodically.  It can cause tons of discomfort and force you to step outside of your comfort zone, but the benefits are endless. Your village’s cooperation and participation are very important if the SWOT is to be effective.

 

Wrap it All Up

You should not go into your divorce or custody without a plan, theme, or a strategy.   Does not matter what you call it, the important thing is that you give some time and attention to developing a thorough, well thought out plan for every phase of the process.  You cannot, nor should you, do it all on your own.   It takes a combination of skills, talents, and traits to create the best strategy and that’s where your village comes in.

Take your time, get your emotions in check, and clear your mind.

 

In Conclusion

When facing divorce or custody, it is not unheard of to seek help from therapists, church, friends, family, etc.  But I wanted to show you a different perspective in how they can help you get through the process with a clear vision and plan.  You increase your chances of getting better outcomes when you take the time to cultivate a village of supporters who bring something different to the equation.

If you need help with strategy in your Family Court matter, feel free to schedule a FREE consultation here. 

A lot of people are under the impression that some states are “mother states” or states that prefer mothers over fathers in custody matters.  This point of view infers that there are also “father states” where fathers are favored. These terms really annoy me because there are way too many factors that go into a custody determination, for either Moms or Dads to hang their hat on how the case will turn out.

 

Constitutional Safeguard vs. Having Father or Mother States

So way before all of the female liberation movement and such, women staying home to take care of the family was a “thing”.  Not that it is not now, but before the 1970s, it was much more widespread.  As a result, if there was a custody dispute, women were much more likely to get custody because of their role as the primary caretaker. At the same time, there were no challenges to the Constitutionality of laws that were gender-biased or courts that imposed gender bias on families.

However, today most father and mother states have custody laws that do not explicitly favor one over the other.  If they did, they would be challenged on the basis of sexual discrimination. Laws that explicitly discriminate against any gender are a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution.  This, however, does not mean that some states’ laws are not discriminatory, it just means that they are indirect with it. So what they typically do is to lay out the criteria or pretexts that are “easier” to satisfy for one gender over the other.  For example, if one of the state’s primary best interest factors lists the availability of one parent to stay home and care for the child, this can certainly be viewed as discriminatory against fathers.

 

The Neutrality of the “Best Interests of the Child” Standard

Every father and mother states has its own set of factors that makes up what it considers the “best interests of the child”. The best interests of the child’s overall objective are to take a neutral position with respect to which parent should obtain custody.  It looks to which parent would provide for the child’s mental, intellectual, physical, and emotional well-being.  And although some father and mother states’ have factors that are partial to either parent, the underlying basis focuses on what’s best for the child.


Best Interests of the Child Custody Each State


States that do not have specific factors leave room for courts to interpret them the way they see fit.  This means that they have more latitude in how they consider which facts are more pertinent to meet the objective of the best interests of the child.  In these particular instances, they are able to favor one parent over the other.  So from the litigant’s perspective, it can appear to be a father or mother state.

This can be a very dangerous proposition, though, because either parent cannot focus on being the most “fit” parent because of their assumption.  The belief that you have the upper hand may actually cause you to be “lose” custody.

 

 Joint Custody as the Presumption

Some states have a presumption of joint custody being in the child’s best interests.  This negates the whole idea of mothers or fathers getting a favor, particularly in such father or mother states. The presumption of joint custody being the best route for the children puts the burden on either parent to make a case otherwise.  So, if the mother wants sole custody, while the father is fine with joint custody, the mother has the burden to overcome the presumption.  She must do this by showing that joint custody is not in alignment with the child’s well-being. She must prove that sole custody is better to meet the child’s emotional, intellectual and physical needs more than joint custody would.

Joint custody neutralizes the idea that either parent has an advantage over the other, and that’s exactly the legislature’s intention.

In Conclusion

The best way to prepare for a custody case is to do all the necessary research into your jurisdiction’s way of ruling.  However, this does not mean to presume anything will go in your favor based on facts that have nothing to do with the best interests standard.  Be prepared for the unexpected particularly where someone tells you that you’re in a “mother” or “father” state.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Child Custody Home Inspection: In child custody cases, the courts will have the home of each parent (or party seeking custody) inspected by the appropriate agency. Usually, the office of Child Protective Service (CPS) will be responsible for conducting the home inspection and reporting back to the court on it. The purpose of these inspections is to ensure that the home environment is safe and suitable for the child(ren) to spend any considerable amount of time there.

 

What is a Child Custody Home Inspection?

Depending on your particular jurisdiction, the term used may be “home study”, “home inspection”, “social study”, home evaluation” and so on. The overall objective is the same no matter the jurisdiction or the term used. The objective is to see the home environment and the child with each parent in that environment to see if the custody best interest’s standard factors are being met. Home inspections are different from custody evaluations. Custody evaluations are typically conducted by a mental health expert/professional. Home inspections, on the other hand, are usually done by social workers, child protection professionals and the like. Some custody evaluations include a home inspection component so the mental health professional may in fact have the interviews done in the home to cover both, however.


Best Interest of the Child Custody in Each State


 

How You Can Use the Inspection to Your Advantage

Although a home visit by CPS is meant to be objective, as a parent you could (and should) use the opportunity to present your circumstances in the best possible way to help your case. Be careful of course as you do not want to be too obvious that you are trying to unduly influence the worker. Be cordial and welcoming, for example but do not overdo it. Show the worker your child(ren)’s favorite space, activity or item. Schedule the appointment at a time when you and your child(ren) are engaged in an activity that you both enjoy. Be sure that the space in clean; that you have adequate food; that safety measures are in place and that no one who does not live in the home is not present at the time.
Show the worker how you encourage learning; how you discipline; nurture their development; support them emotionally and foster a relationship with the other parent. You can ask the worker questions. You can offer to provide evidence of your being “fit” and/or of the other parent being “unfit”. However, the way you present anything must not come across as negative toward the other parent so be mindful.

Use this opportunity to give the worker what he/she needs in the event they are called a witness in your case. But again, be careful because it can work both ways you must be mindful of what you say and how you say it in custody cases. Focus on the best interests of your child(ren) no matter what. If you do not know what that is, ask before the worker shows up to your home.


What You Say In Family Court Matters


 

The Weight Given to Reports in Child Custody Home Inspection

The court defers to home inspection reports significantly.  The court will rarely find that these reports (the worker’s account of what he/she saw) lack credibility. If there are specific facts the court wants the worker to focus on, they might ask them to do a supplemental or follow up visit.  In addition, either party can request a follow up visit if they believe that something important was left out or overlooked.  The guardian ad litem (or child’s attorney, advocate) can also point out omissions in the report and request another visit.

If either party objects to what is in the report there is recourse. They the opportunity will more than likely must “impeach” the worker that conducted the inspection.  If the objection is to something someone else said, then the party must impeach that individual. Challenging the truth of what someone else said to the worker may be considered “hearsay”.  These third-person statements are subject to being precluded under hearsay evidence rules.

The worker that does the report is human too, they make mistakes.  Although they are given considerable deference, you must voice your concern with their method, their facts, etc. if you have any.

 

In Conclusion

Home studies, or whatever they are referred to in your jurisdiction, are almost inevitable in child custody cases.  No need to dread them, to avoid them or try to manipulate them in any way.   You can use them to your advantage as long as you are prepared and informed on how to do that.

Please feel free to read my other blogs here.  Also, watch my YouTube channel for live stream discussions on family law-related topics.

Take advantage of my free 15 min consultation.

Family court has proven time and again that their agenda appears to be quite opposite of what many of us expect. Especially with respect to child custody and parenting time. The standard is the best interests of the child but that does not always seem to be match the outcome of court rulings. A lot of times parents think they are doing what falls in line with the best interests standards. However, to their dismay they find out that their efforts are often minimized, ignored or even, penalized by the system.

Parenting access is an improvement goal of family court. Parenting access is the time the noncustodial parent gets to spend with their child, to communicate with their child and be informed of important things in their child’s life. This article will address how Parenting access is factored in the child custody case.


“Good” and “Not so Good” Co-parenting is Still Coparenting


The Best Interests Standards in Child Custody

The best interests of the child in custody matters are the standard all the family courts use to decide what is best for children mental, physical, emotional, and intellectual well-being. There is no specific law, but each state has come up with its own set of factors to help it make its determination.

These factors examine the child’s circumstances as well as the circumstances of the parents when the issue is custody. The objective is to ensure that the child’s needs are not overlooked when weighed against the parents’ capabilities. Conversely, looking at the parents’ circumstances from a realistic perspective is just as important. For example, the parents’ mental and physical health are factored in just as the children are.

Parenting Access as a Child Custody Factor

Another factor the courts consider is each parent’s effort and participation in facilitating a nurturing relationship between the child and the other parent. This means taking measures to arrange time for the other parent to spend with the child, keeping the lines of communication open between the other parent and child and informing the other parent of major changes in the child’s life.

(See Delaware’s list of factors.)

From a practical standpoint, rearranging your schedule to accommodate the other parent, being inconvenienced by traveling a little further than usual, allowing the child to have phone or video calls and so on, are examples of fostering a nurturing relationship. Showing that you are on board with the other parent maintaining a loving relationship with your child typically carries more weight than any “flaws” they can bring up in court.

How to Use Parenting Access Factor Effectively

As I mentioned above, everything does not always work out the way we intend them to in Family Court. Unfortunately, this happens in more cases than not. (Which is exactly why my services focus on strategy more than law, learn more here.) One of the main reasons people are highly disappointed in their custody outcome is because they fail to take the time to learn the courts ‘inner workings”. They do not learn the court’s language; it is rationale for its moves or its overall goals.

The parenting access factor is an important element with respect to the court’s goals. As I mentioned, the court has an interest in ensuring that the child has a healthy relationship with each parent. At the same token, if you are not mindful of how it intercepts with the other factors it can backfire.

Parenting access is an important factor, but it is not the only one. Most courts utilize a range of 8-12 factors to determine custody. Parenting access can be a specific factor on the list or can encompass a few of them. In other words, State A can look directly at the frequency of visits the custodial parent allows with the noncustodial parent. While State B can look at a combination of things that are not as direct but within context.

(Compare Virginia’s factors with Illinois’ factors to see how they differ in language.)

Because of the differences in how the states list their factors and how the courts examine them, litigants need to understand how they impact the final custody decision. Having clear insight on how the parenting access looks in the grand scheme of things is vital.

For instance, will allowing the child more time at the noncustodial parent’s home give the impression that the custodial parent does not want the child at home? Will encouraging communication between them support the other parent’s petition for joint custody? These are just some things to keep in mind, not as a deterrent but in planning and present your case.

In conclusion

Family Court is tricky with custody cases. If you take actions from a limited perspective, you could be shooting yourself in the foot.

If you wish to schedule a FREE 15min consultation to discuss my services in your custody matter, please feel free to do that here.

Family Court
Family Court Frequently Asked Questions

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As many of you know, I am quite active in the online space with my audience.  This is very helpful for me personally and professionally, as it allows me to stay current on the issues like the family court matters that are most important to my community.  On a personal level, I am able to connect with people from all over the world, which is rewarding itself.

 

One of the things that I do daily is encourage my audience to ask questions.  As a result, what I have noticed is that there is a lot of misinformation being circulated.  In addition, I realized that people tend to have the same concerns regardless of their location, status or position (in their case).  So I have decided to dedicate this week’s blog to those common questions, providing some clear answers.


Parent Education in Divorce or Custody Matters

Frequently Asked Questions

 1. Should I file a divorce or custody petition first?

Read my blog on this topic but the short answer is, it depends.  If you are seeking divorce on specific “grounds” like adultery then you should file first.  However, if your circumstances meet the requirements for a “no-fault” divorce, then it may not matter.  In situations where there is property and you are concerned that your ex/soon to be ex will hide it, then you may want to file first.  However, filing first does not guarantee better success, it may just afford you the opportunity to better prepare.

  1. Is there a difference in shared custody vs. joint custody vs. 50/50 custody?

Shared custody can be anything where the child(ren) split their time at both parents home.  However, that split can be anything above or below 50%.  Joint custody usually refers to joint legal but can include physical too. 50/50 custody usually means that the child(ren) spend equal time between both parents homes. I covered this topic at length here.

  1. How should I prepare for filing for divorce?

Preparing for divorce, whether you are filing or waiting to be served, should start as early as possible.  This does not mean that you should rush to give up on your marriage but it certainly means that you should start to take the necessary steps the moment you’re convinced that divorce is impending. Gather documents, i.e. deeds/lease agreements, financial statements, credit card statements, receipts, etc.; contact all providers i.e. medical/health, schools, insurance, etc.; change passwords; inventory possessions; records, etc.

  1. Should I work with an attorney?

Having a lawyer represent you in your divorce or custody case is not an absolute must.  In certain circumstances you should certainly have an attorney represent you, but even in these instances the extent to which they provide representation should be considered.  If there is a dispute over custody, alimony &/or property distribution then having a lawyer on your side can certainly help.  However, be wise about whom you choose to work with and be sure they are familiar with the nuanced issues of your case.

Note: Visit here to read more about alternative options.

  1. Can I use text messages, emails, etc. as evidence in my hearing or trial?

This is a very common question and requires as much attention as possible.  Yes, text messages, emails, etc. can be used in court for evidentiary purposes.  Although each state has their own rules with respect to how these are admitted, they are generally allowed to be used to prove or defend your position in court.

Note:  I did a video on this topic on my Facebook business page.

Finding & Using Resources

Although there are tons of free resources on the internet, knowing which question to ask can make these resources useless.  When you are enmeshed in a legal battle, particularly in Family Court, it is critical to have the right information.  It is not advisable to trust your friends, family or even strangers to give you the appropriate answers to your legal questions.  Having gone through the process helps, but it does not qualify them to give you legal advice since each case is very different.

I always recommend getting at least three (3) consultations from qualified attorneys in your jurisdiction so that you have a solid foundation to start your journey.  Most family law attorneys will provide a free consultation so cost should not be a deterrent.

In Conclusion

 Always, always, always ask questions and seek answers.  At the same time, use discernment to decide if the source is reliable.  There is an overwhelming amount of information relevant to divorce and custody so filtering is important as well.

If you wish to schedule a consultation to discuss how I can help you please feel free to so here.

child support

 

Child support and child custody intercepts at times, but that depends on several factors. In most states Child support is determined by statutory guidelines imposed by that state. Those guidelines usually takes into consideration parents’ income (either one or both), number of children, previous financial orders and some excepted expenses (like employment deductions). Some states also consider the custody arrangement.


Best Interests of the Child Custody Each State


The Purpose of Child Support

Child support is intended to provide financial support for children. That generally means that each parent contributes to providing all the basic needs of their child(ren), including medical and educational too.  Although the Child Support Standards Act is the federal law governing child support, each state has its own law with respect to parents financial obligations to their children. Most states statutes base their guidelines on cost of living among other things.

There are 3 models each state chooses from, which are as follows:

Income Shares Model– this is based on the premise that children should receive the same proportion of their parents income that they would have received if the parents loved together. Most states, 41 to be exact, use this model. (Get more details here on each states guidelines.)

Percentage of Income Model– sets out a percentage of ONLY the noncustodial parent’s income. The custodial parents income is NOT taken into consideration. There is the Flat Percentage and the Varying Percentage variations. Four states use the former, while two states use the latter.

Melson Formula-a more complicated (and rarely used) version of the Income Shares Model. This takes into account each parents needs as well as the children’s. Only 3 states use this one. (See Delaware’s child support law.)

Child Custody Impact on Child Support

There is a difference in joint custody, shared custody and 50/50 custody. (Read here for in depth discussion from one of my previous blog posts.) In cases where either parent has sole or primary custody the noncustodial parent pays child support pursuant to their state statute. However, with respect to shared or 50/50 custody, where the child(ren) spend equal time with both parents obligation varies based on which Model the state uses.

With respect to Income Shares Model, the parents combined incomes and the number of children results in a figure. That figure is then divided proportionately based on the amount of time the children lives with each parent.

In the Percentage of Income Model, custody and support usually takes a different approach. Typically, only the noncustodial parent’s income is used to calculate support obligation. However, in shared  or 50/50 custody arrangements, the custodial parent’s income is a factor. The custodial parent’s income is compared to the noncustodial’s income to determine which is the highest. The parent with the highest income pays child support.

Some states’ statutes allows for the court to use discretion in rendering a final support order. In these instances, shared or 50/50, or any variation of joint physical custody, can justify the court coming up with an amount different from the statutory calculation.

In conclusion

 You should definitely familiarize yourself with your state’s child support and child custody laws before attempting to negotiate any settlements.

If you would like to discuss the options I have to help you prepare your case for settlement, mediation or trial, please feel free to set up a free consultation. Visit my Home page for details about the services I offer.