Many California parents feel a considerable amount of stress and anxiety when it comes to resolving custody matters with a future former spouse. Not everyone is able to amicably reach an agreement when it comes to the children, and that's okay.
If you need to plead your case to be the primary custodial parent of the children, then so be it. You may feel that you are the better parent, but it may take some convincing before the court will agree.
How does the court make that decision?
If you haven't heard of the "better parent" standard, now is the time to become acquainted with it. These days, the courts prefer both parents to remain as involved in the children's lives as possible. For this reason, they hesitate to seriously restrict one parent's access to the children. Therefore, if you want to seek sole custody, the court expects you to provide evidence that your desired arrangement would serve the best interests of the children.
The court will want to know that you provide the lion's share of the care for the children. This includes attending to their physical and psychological needs. Some examples of what the court looks for are below:
- Do you provide most of the meals?
- Do you create and facilitate the daily routine?
- Do you attend after school and extracurricular activities?
- Do you make medical and dental appointments?
- Do the children turn to you more often for support?
A word of caution -- courts do not appreciate badmouthing the other parent. Even if you believe the other parent is unfit, focus more on your parenting skills rather than the other parent's lack of skills. Part of awarding sole custody is receiving assurance that you will foster a relationship between the children and the other parent. If it appears you won't fulfill this need, the court may not grant your request.
Preparing for court
You want to make sure you put your best foot forward when you go into court. The first impression the court has of you should reveal your respect and appreciation for the process and the court. Dressing and acting appropriately are only part of this equation. You also need to prepare your case and bring all relevant documentation with you, even if you already submitted it to the court.
The judge will probably require you to answer questions based on your and the other parent's submissions, and it's easier to provide answers if you can reference the information you previously provided to the court. You may also want to familiarize yourself with the other parent's submissions since you may need to defend against them.