During this holiday time (and because my little ones are with Mommy for Christmas this year), I am moved to write about how to get more time with your children after divorce. In this series, titled Getting More Time With Your Children, I have one central theme: your case for greater time with your kids depends on the quality of relationship between you and your kids, not making the most brilliant child custody argument or attacking your ex. The central legal principle involved is the “best interest of the child” (or “BIC”) standard. For those of you who want to get technical, check out Family Code section 3011. For now, let’s just say that child custody professionals and judges will be looking out for what’s best for your child, and that the law doesn’t care what is fair to you in your case.
In this post, I’ll be giving you more ideas on how to lay the groundwork for success when you’re before Family Court Services, custody evaluators and even judges. Many of these decision makers got into this work because they care about children, and most want to see the type of parenting that their scientific studies and clinical training have told them is “good.”
To get a flavor of what they’re looking for, it’s a good idea to take a look at San Diego Superior Court’s orientation video and read what’s on the official FCS web page. Click here to do that. I also advise that you attend their parent orientation and that you ask lots of questions.
If you lay the groundwork properly, when you go into FCS mediation and begin talking about how you parent, you’ll see a gleam as a tear forms in the corner of the counselor’s eye. What they’re looking for are fathers and mothers who positively interact with their children, who participate in their children’s training and schooling, and who nurture their children’s special gifts.
- Be a hero, not a victim. If you got a bad shake from the court in the time share, you may be bitter and angry, especially about the amount of support you have to pay. But let’s reframe that. If you are a child support payer, you are a hero, providing food, shelter, clothing and parental love to a child who desperately needs it. Give yourself a pat on the back. If you have difficulty doing this reframe, contact me and I’ll refer you to a top-notched therapist to help.
- Use the time that you have. Before you rush into court to ask for a modification, first honestly evaluate your relationship with your child. Even if you have supervised visitation, don’t underestimate your child’s need for your love and affection. Plan activities during your parenting time that involve both of you. If you have 1 day every 2 weeks, make that day special.
- Support your co-parent’s parenting. It’s tempting to see your co-parent as your adversary, to see them as the crazy one, or the one who is too permissive. But if you communicate this to your child, it could hurt your custody case. Try talking up your co-parent’s positive points to your child. If Junior complains about Mommy, explain that mommy loves him and that he has to follow Mommy’s rules in Mommy’s house. And for you advanced co-parents, try to create some shared rules and disciplinary consequences that cross the boundaries between your 2 worlds.
- Separate child support amounts from parenting. As long as your mental focus is on increasing time to reduce support, the court will see through this and will not give you the increased parenting time you are seeking. It’s best to focus on your child’s needs from his or her parents, and forget about the money. With this attitude, decision makers will see you as more child-focused.
- Use a redirective model for parenting. The latest trend in family court is toward a parenting method known as Redirecting Children’s Behavior, or “RCB.” There are many excellent RCB courses, and I recommend Peggy Olsen’s class or Susan Walton’s class. If you have cooperation with your co-parent, you can both take the class (I recommend alternate sessions to avoid being in the same class with your ex). Get a certificate of completion, and file it with the court if you have FCS mediation coming up.
If you lay the groundwork of conscious, child-focused, redirective parenting, you’re likely to get better results in your child custody case, whether or not you have a lawyer. It’s that simple.
And perhaps more importantly, you’ll be touching the lives of your children and handing down a legacy of healthy family relationships to future generations.
Wishing you the happiest of holidays and a prosperous new year, I remain …
Very truly yours,
Disclaimer: Thomas D. Ferreira is an attorney licensed only in the State of California. The information set forth in this blog or on our websites are not intended to create an attorney-client relationship, nor are they intended as legal advice on your specific matter. This information is not intended to apply to cases or jurisdictions outside the State of California, and those viewing this information outside of California, or having business before jurisdictions outside of California, should consult a local professional or lawyer. The information in this blog is not a substitute for the advice of competent counsel, and is not intended, nor should it be construed, as a guarantee, warranty or prediction regarding the results of your legal matter.