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What Are the Dos and Don'ts of a California Custody Case?

You want your children to live with you full-time after your divorce, but you know it's best for your little ones to spend time with both parents. Then the unthinkable enters your mind. What if the family court judge decides your children should live with your ex, and you become one of those parents who only see their kids every other weekend?

There are things you can do to present yourself well in a child custody case and show the judge you are a parent worthy of having a substantial amount of time with your children.

So, what shouldn't you do before you go to court?

  1. Don't show up late for visitations. That could imply that you are less than committed to your kids.
  2. You might need to reschedule a time with your children on rare occasions, but don't do it repeatedly. This could be a negative reflection on your parenting.
  3. Don't abuse alcohol or drugs, especially around the kids. Your co-parent could document that and present it to the judge.
  4. Don't ignore what a judge asks you to do. If you are asked to take a parent class or something similar, do it.
  5. Don't burden the kids with details of the court case. This is for the parents to work out.

What should you do?

  1. Ask for an in-home custody evaluation. If you fear your ex might try to paint your home situated in a bad light, a neutral third party can report the facts to the court.
  2. Show that you are flexible and willing to work with your co-parent.
  3. Take advantage of your parental rights. Spend as much time with your kids as is allowed.
  4. Don't just be the fun parent. Show the court that you enforce bedtime rules, help with homework and instill the value of helping around the house.
  5. Remember that the judge will assess your firsthand in court, so make a good first, and maybe only, impression. Arrive on time, dress properly and show proper courtroom etiquette.
  6. Research the custody laws in your state so you know what to expect.
  7. Document any instances that show your ex might be a danger to your children, such as physical abuse.
  8. Set up an appointment with an attorney experienced with child custody to talk about your situation. Nothing is more important than the well-being of your children.
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