As promised, here is the second installment on my series, Best Child Custody Advice Ever. This advice is mostly for non-custodial parents who want more time with the children. I don’t generally consider myself a “father’s rights” attorney—my philosophy is that each co-parent after a divorce or separation brings something unique and important to the parenting table. My hope here is that non-custodial parents will be able to use these techniques to get more parenting time, and that custodial parents will gain understanding of how courts view disputes over parenting time.
The biggest mistake most child custody litigants make is believing that filing in court for custody will automatically change your situation. Though this is sometimes true, the reality is, you generally have to create a change in circumstances before you file.
Remember, the parent-child relationship is king. Before filing, do whatever you can to establish and nature that relationship, and keep a diary of how the children are doing each time you see them. Here are some thing you can do to lay the groundwork for a successful request to change the custody or visitation schedule:
- Take any additional time with the children that he/she is willing to give you. Don’t worry that the extra time isn’t in the court orders; as long as you have agreement with the other parent, you can do whatever you want. Raising kids is tough sledding, and believe me, she’ll (he’ll) need a break sometime. Be “Johnny on the spot” to step in when the other parent needs extra help.
- Get involved with education and extra-curricular activities. The courts want to see that you are “child-focused,” and they are very concerned about the child’s education. Make sure you go to orientations, meetings and parent-teacher conferences with your children’s teachers. Ask that the school send you the child’s report cards directly. Volunteer in the classroom—teachers always need help. If the teacher sees you as an involved parent, you’ll stand head and shoulders above most parents who want the school to do all the heavy lifting. One side benefit is that a teacher is a great person to write a declaration in support of your request for more parenting time.
- Move closer to the other parent. Distance is often a barrier to being involved in the children’s lives. Yes, it’s not fair that a custodial parent can dictate where you live. But if you rearrange your lifestyle to be in the children’s school district and be close, you’ll score points with the court. I have had cases where the willingness of a parent to move closer to the other parent was the change of circumstance that got my client more parenting time.
- Disengage from conflict. The second biggest mistake I see in child custody cases is parents sending nasty communications to each other, trying to get the other parent to do some act (such as alter the visitation schedule) or filing repeatedly in court on minor issues. This is generally counter-productive. A better strategy is to take the time you have and focus it on your children. Make “dad’s world” or “mom’s world” an awesome place to be a kid. Any energy focused on the other parent (with whom you’ve presumably broken up) is a waste of time and effort.
Once you have taken steps like these, you’ll have a record that justifies an increase in parenting time, or transition to overnight parenting time or even joint physical custody.
Stay tuned for more great advice on how to increase your parenting time. Until then, 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