TOP THREE (3) CUSTODY COMPLAINTS (AND MY ADVICE)
Kelly Chang Rickert, Esq., CFLS**
** California State Bar Certified Family Law Specialist
Law Offices of Kelly Chang, A Professional Law Corporation
Copyright 2000 - 2012
If you are going through a divorce or a paternity case with children, and you absolutely hate your spouse/partner, I strongly urge you read this article.First, as a custody lawyer, if there was ONE trait I could wish on all my clients, it would be MATURITY. That’s correct, 95% of nasty custody battles happen because one, or both parties, are incredibly immature. So, the first piece of advice I give to those entrapped in these battles is: GROW UP. Seriously, GROW UP!!!!!! I understand that sometimes it’s your SPOUSE/PARTNER that is immature. But as a famous Judge once said on the bench: “Mother Theresa does NOT marry Hitler”. Your complaints reflect more about YOU as a person than the other person.
Below please find a compilation of the top 3 custody complaints my firm (and ALL family law judges) hear, ALL THE TIME.
MY ADVICE: Work it out. Go to mediation to work out a good parenting plan. If there are no drug dependency/addiction/domestic violence/psychological issues, or if there isn’t a pending MOVE across an ocean, JOINT legal and JOINT physical custody will be preferred and awarded, especially in a case where the child(ren) have had times of appropriate bonding with both parents. Joint custody is not necessary 50/50, just as quality isn’t necessarily quantity. If you are willing to put the children first, knowing their schedules can help you figure out a good parenting plan. BE REASONABLE.
2. The children can’t live without me. I raised them on my own. He/She was never around. They need to be with me, it’s in their “best interests”, so I should have full custody.
I generally hear this complaint from mothers of very young children (typically under age 5). It is somewhat true that young children (under age 5), generally spend more time with their moms – this is especially true in households where only one parent (typically the father) works. However, times have changed: nowadays, both parents do work. As such, it is natural to assume the child spends an adequate amount of time during the day away from both parents. Lesson? CHILDREN ADJUST.
Sometimes the children DO spend more time with one parent, particularly if only one parent works. However, in most divorces and/or separations, THINGS CHANGE. The law will NOT punish a working parent. If you are father that frequently travels for his job (i.e., 280 days of the year), you may need to get a new job in order to bond with the children. If you have historically been absent, there may be a period where you gradually “step up” to your eventual role as a “present parent”.
If you are the stay at home parent, the award of joint custody may be shocking at first. But it may be an opportunity for the other parent to step up, and really be the parent you always wanted him/her to be. In addition, I have been informed by several of my at-first reluctant clients that after the initial shock and adjustment, they actually prefer the shared custody because they now “get a break from the kids”.
MY ADVICE: Work it out. Accept this reality: divorce splits a home. Every child will need to go through an adjustment period. They may have seen mommy, or daddy, every single night of their lives. But now there are TWO homes, and there will be times where they will not see you. This is the harsh reality of divorce. But understand that as long as the co-parenting is peaceful, the times without the children will not harm their development. You may miss them, but they are with their father (or mother). It is GOOD, and what the Legislature intended – that the child(ren) maintain “frequent and continuing” contact (NOT “every single second and none to the other parent”) with BOTH parents. Remember, you and your spouse/partner are going through the divorce/separation, NOT the children.
Co-parenting is tough, EVEN WHEN YOU ARE TOGETHER. I am a co-parenting mother. In our home, you will frequently hear accusations of this sort flying back and forth:
“You are late picking up our daughter, again!”
“No, do NOT feed her McDonalds AGAIN for dinner.”
“Can you not hover over her? She needs to breathe!”
“WHY is she watching Princess movies again when I just bought three (3) books for her?”
“It is 80 degrees out, and you dressed her in a sweater. What is wrong with you?”
“It is 50 degrees out and you dressed her in a T-Shirt. What is wrong with you?”
“Uh, she has 103 fever!! You were with her all day, didn’t you THINK about calling the doctor, or ME?”