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Child Custody FAQ

Guidance from Our Oceanside Child Custody Attorneys

If you are facing a tough case regarding the custody of your children or of children in your life, you probably have a lot of questions. The team at Fischer & Van Thiel, LLP has answers. Read our child custody FAQ below to learn more.

If you still have questions, contact us online or at (760) 621-7101.

My wife is accusing me of molesting our son, what do I do?

Question: I do not know why she is doing this, she is telling the police that I was molesting our son. She took him to the doctor to have him checked out. He is four years old. I did not do anything.

Answer: These are very serious allegations that your wife is making. You should not make any statements to the police unless you have an attorney present. Even if you have not molested your son, the allegations will be taken seriously. Typically, Child Protective Services will be involved and will conduct an investigation to see if the molestation allegations are founded or not. If CPS has reason to believe that the child is being molested, he will be removed from the home. If not, you might want to consider filing charges against your wife for making malicious allegations against you. Contact a criminal defense attorney to help you with your case and do not willingly talk to the police unless you have an attorney present.

When parents have joint custody, do both need to approve of a child moving out of state for school?

Question: When parents are divorced and have equal and joint custody of their child, does a child need both parents’ approval in order to go away to something like a private school or college prep school? It is a boarding school scenario. If the child does need the approval of both parents, then can the child appeal to a judge? Will the child need to hire a lawyer? What can be done? (The child in question is nearly 16 years old and wishes to spend their last two years of high school at an advanced private school, but one parent will not agree to let the child go.)

Answer: In a situation like this, you can request an order from the Court allowing your child to attend the school. You would file what is called an order to show cause and get a hearing date. You will want to present evidence as to why going away to school is in the child’s best interests. The other parent would have to submit evidence as to why it is not in the child’s best interest. The judge will be able to grant the order for the child to move away.

Is the opinion of the child ever taken into consideration in a divorce?

Question: Is the opinion of the child ever taken into consideration in a divorce? If so, at what age to the court actually take that opinion into consideration?

Answer: Depending on a variety of factors – including the age of the child – the court has the ability to consider a child’s opinion in custody matters. Often, the Family Court Services counselor will speak to the child before preparing the written custody and visitation recommendations. The information ascertained from this meeting could impact the recommendations provided by the counselor. While there is no absolute age a child must be for the court to consider their input, they must have the mental capacity and maturity level to form a reasonable opinion regarding their preference.

How do I get custody of my children again?

Question: Two years ago, I was at my now ex’s house with my two children when a raid took place for marijuana. I was clueless to the fact that he was growing marijuana in the garage. CPS was called and kids were taken. It has been a hopeless battle for me with false hope after me doing everything and more than was told to do. I went to a very strict four days a week drug program, was drug tested three times a week, rehab, eventually rented my own apartment. I jumped through all the hoops. The father was asked to attend parenting classes and was granted full physical custody. We both share joint custody and I see my son four days out of the month and he controls everything and threatens that he doesn’t have to let me see him at all. I have not had a fair chance at all. I need help, even my criminal charges are the same as what he was charged with and I was just a guest that stayed the night at his residence.

Answer: If you have completed your rehabilitation program, are currently sober, and have been keeping up with your court ordered visitation time, you will want to file a motion to modify the current custody and visitation order. Given the complexities of your case, it would probably be in your best interest to consult with an attorney.

Can you get child custody with no job?

Question: My husband is trying to control my every move. I want to leave but he said if I leave if can’t take my son because I don’t have a job. Could I get custody?

Answer: Yes, you can get child custody even if you are unemployed. The court considers the “best interests of the child” when determining custody and visitation. You will need to file for divorce and file an Order to Show Cause requesting that the court set orders for child custody, visitation, child support, and possibly spousal support. It is likely that the court will order him to pay you support for the care and maintenance of your son and maybe even spousal support depending on your individual circumstances.

Can I choose to give up my rights as father?

Question: I am thinking about giving up my rights to my children. What consequences would I face if I wanted to do so? Would I still be required to pay child support?

Answer: You cannot give up your rights as a father to get out of your obligation to pay child support. However, there are limited circumstances where the child can be adopted, at which point one would no longer have to pay support since they are no longer the legal parent of that child. The primary question is do you really want to give up all rights to your child and secondly, is there someone else willing to step in to adopt the child and assume the financial obligations that go along with supporting the child.

Can I take my children out of the state while divorcing?

Question: My permanent residence is in Washington State with my four minor children. However, my husband left to California to live with his parents eight months ago when we began to have marital problems. I recently in January came to California with the two youngest children to try to save my marriage and pursue marital counseling. I was served with divorce papers at the beginning of this month in California, and have recently found out I have ovarian cancer. I would like to go back to my permanent residence with my two children to pursue cancer treatment until the court date. Is it illegal for me to take my children back to our home until the court date? Or do I need permission from the court?

Answer: Because you have been served with divorce documents, you cannot remove the children from the state. On the back of the Summons are ATROS (Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders). These orders state that absent a court order or the written consent of the other party, the children are not to be removed from the state. However, you can file a motion to request permission to move back to Washington with the children. You will need to respond to the divorce documents within 30 days. Given the complexity of your case, you should consult with an experienced family law attorney.

Can the mother of my children move out of California without my permission?

Question: The mother of my three children and I never went to court to decide custody when we split and/or thereafter. We continued to live in the same city and I was in the children’s lives. A couple of years ago she disappeared with the kids. Just recently I found out that she moved to the state of Idaho with the two youngest (now 13 and 11) and left the oldest child (now 16) here in the care of his friend’s mother. Can she move out of state with them and leave the other with someone else without my permission or knowledge? What are my rights and options?

Answer: You should file a motion with the court to set custody and visitation orders. In order for California to have jurisdiction, the children must have been residing in the state for the last six months. Therefore, it is likely that you may have to file your custody motion in Idaho, if they have been residing in Idaho and Idaho has jurisdiction. Normally when there are court-ordered custody/visitation orders already in place, the children cannot be removed absent a court order or the written consent of the other party.

Who has legal jurisdiction in my child custody case?

Question: My boyfriend and I lived in the state of Nevada. Our son was two months old when I came to California. When my son was four months old, my boyfriend decided to move out to California. Two months later, things didn’t work out and my ex moved back to Nevada. Immediately I filed for custody and at the time of filing, my son was six months. Two weeks later I’m served with papers from Nevada claiming I improperly filed. Who has rightful jurisdiction? California or Nevada?

Answer: California’s jurisdiction requirements state that the child’s home state is the state the child has been living in for the past six months. Because your son was only six months old when you filed the action, and you appear to have lived in California for the majority of his life, California should have jurisdiction. It is likely that your boyfriend will contest California having jurisdiction, so it would be in your best interest to consult with an experienced family law attorney.

Can I deny visitation even though we have no child custody agreement?

Question: Me and my ex-boyfriend have no legal custody agreement for our four-month old. I am the custodial parent, and he signed the birth certificate and now wants a DNA test. Can I deny him visitation, and if I do will it reflect badly on me in court later?

Answer: If there is no custody/visitation order in place, then visitation should be agreed upon by both parties. The court looks at the “best interest” of the child when making custody/visitation orders. Therefore, if you are going to deny him visitation, you should have a good reason or else it will reflect badly upon you in court. You should help facilitate contact between both your child and the child’s father. You should file a motion with the court for custody and visitation orders. Your ex-boyfriend may request a DNA test, but if you truly believe he is the father, there shouldn’t be an issue with this request.

Can a spouse with a mental disability be granted child custody?

Question: Can a disabled spouse who has a mental disability retain legal joint custody of the children? The father is on SSDI with mental issues and has a recent felony, and the mother is full-time employed.

Answer: When deciding custody and visitation issues, the court uses the “best interests” of the child standard. If the father’s disability affects his parenting ability and places the children in harm, then he may not be granted primary custody, but he may be granted reasonable visitation or supervised visitation. While you mention legal custody in your question, please note there are two types of custody: legal and physical. Legal custody deals with making decisions for issues such as education, health, etc.

Can I have full custody of my son if his father in jail?

Question: Can I have full custody of my son if his father in jail? I get child support, we are not together, and he has no job.

Answer: Yes, you can file a motion with the Court asking to have full custody of your child awarded to you while the father is in jail. It is likely the Court will do this for you. The father will then have a right to file a motion to get custody back once he is released from jail. He will have to meet certain conditions though before the Court will restore his parental rights especially since he has been gone from the child’s life for so long.

I am getting a divorce in California and am moving out of my home. Will that ruin my chances of getting custody of my kids?

Question: I have been fighting with my spouse a lot, and we are divorcing because of irreconcilable differences. I want custody of my kids, and I want to make sure that I do not give my wife an advantage to getting full custody of our children. Will I have a hard time getting custody if I do not live at home anymore?

Answer: In child custody cases, the court will generally not make a decision regarding custody based on one factor, but instead they look at the child’s “best interests.” Because many different elements are considered, the likelihood of a court looking upon an action as favorable or unfavorable can depend on the totality of the circumstances. It is important to contact an experienced family law attorney who can assist you in the proper planning and execution of your legal goals.

What rights will I have as stepmom of joint-custody children in California?

Question: I am marrying my boyfriend in March, and he has two children, who I adore. Will I have any rights to the kids as stepmom if my boyfriend and his ex share custody?

Answer: Being a stepparent does not confer any rights or impose any duties. Any support a stepparent provides to a stepchild is purely voluntary and can cease at any time. In some cases, a stepparent who treats a stepchild as a member of their family places herself in loco parentis, which means “in the place of a parent.” However, in order to establish a parental relationship, the stepparent must intend to take the place of the child’s natural parent in providing support, educating and instructing the child, and caring for his/her general welfare. The status of loco parentis for a stepparent terminates upon divorce. However, if your fiancé and his ex have joint custody, loco parentis would probably not apply in your situation. For more information, contact an experienced family law attorney.

Can my child be left in the custody of an unfit grandmother?

Question: My son was in his grandmother’s custody when he was about a year old. His mother had left town for nine months and I had him every weekend for visitation. The grandmother had to go into a mental institution at one point and my son was taken from her and almost put into foster care because she lied and said that I was in Arizona. Does my son’s mother have the right to leave my son with that same grandparent now?

Answer: If there is an order granting your son’s mother custody, you can a file an order to show cause (OSC) to modify custody and/or visitation, asking the court for a different custody or visitation arrangement. You can also ask the court to issue an order preventing your son’s mother from leaving your son with his grandmother. An OSC can also be filed if there is an order granting your son’s grandmother custody. Again, you would be asking the court to modify the custody arrangement.

How is child custody decided?

When determining which party gets custody of the child, the court must act “in the best interest of the child(ren).” In most instances, this means that the parents will have joint custody of the youth. In these cases, the parents share time spent with the children and make joint decisions about the children’s education and healthcare. Duties and holidays are shared, and a preset schedule is typically created.

If one parent is decided to be unfit for raising kids, however, then sole custody will be awarded to the other parent. The custody determination will remain in this state until the non-custodial parent can prove that he or she is able to provide a good environment for the children.

If you would like to learn more about determination of child custody, contact the Oceanside divorce attorneys of Fischer & Van Thiel today at (760) 621-7101.

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