For Californians going through a divorce, it can be an emotionally wrenching experience. While some cases are relatively agreeable and the spouses simply want to end the marriage and move on, others are contentious. This is especially worrisome if children are involved. Child custody has the tendency to be complex in general. If the parents are in a high-conflict situation, it can be difficult to navigate. From the outset, it is important to understand the basics to forge a comprehensive strategy to reach a desired goal while simultaneously serving the child’s best interests.
The fundamentals of child custody and confronting high-conflict cases
From the start, it is wise to understand the fundamentals about child custody. There are two types of child custody orders that can be made. They are legal custody and physical custody. The parent who is granted legal custody can make all the key decisions on behalf of the child. That can include where he or she lives, their religious upbringing, education and health care among many other aspects of life.
Physical custody is just as it sounds with the determination as to where the child will live. There can be joint physical custody or sole/primary physical custody. Joint custody will have the child living with both parents. Sole or primary custody means one parent will have the child more than half the time and the other parent will be given reasonable visitation rights.
There is a litany of factors that are weighed in a custody case. The child’s well-being is the crux of the matter. The parents’ ability to care for the child and coordinate is imperative. Also, the child’s age, health, emotional connection to the parents, schooling, extracurricular activities, extended family and if there are extenuating circumstances like allegations of abuse are all considered.
Common situations that might lead to a high-conflict custody dispute
While it is a best-case scenario that parents will work together for the good of the child, the issues that facilitated the divorce might come to the forefront in a child custody case. There is frequently a perception that custody is generally granted to women and fathers’ rights are pushed to the side. Legally, that is not accurate. The court is focusing on the child’s best interests. Whether that means the mother or father will be the primary custodial parent or not is secondary to that.
Among the common issues that arise in a high-conflict child custody case are living arrangements, allegations of abuse, a relocation attempt and fear that the other parent will not adhere to the terms of the agreement. Regarding a relocation, the court will want to know that there is a justifiable reason for it such as being nearer to family members, gainful employment or to attend school. The other parent might protest saying that it is untenable and visitation will be severely impacted by the move. Regardless of the reason and perspective, it is imperative to present the case cogently and try to put the lingering feelings from the breakdown of the marriage aside to try and achieve a positive outcome for the child.
Having professional representation can help with a case
Parents need to ask themselves a series of questions as they move forward with a high-conflict child custody case. That includes what type of custody they are seeking; if they can work with the other parent regarding visitation; what the current circumstances are; if the child has a preference; and if the other party is willing to be reasonable and flexible. From the start, parents should know what they want and if it is achievable. They must also think about the child’s safety and if the desired arrangement is a positive. Having assistance and advice can assess the case, give advice and help with trying to reach a good result no matter the intricate details of the case.