When parents in California file for divorce, there is no presumption that one parent is automatically entitled to sole child custody. Instead, the court will consider the best interests of a child in awarding custody. Parents may have a difficult time going through a divorce without professional assistance. Although California family law courts require parents to seek mediation services, they may benefit from having a lawyer guide them through the process.

Attorneys in mediation and collaborative law may help parents prepare for mediation and for the courtroom process that follows. For instance, attorneys may help parents prepare for child custody negotiations by discussing the options that may be acceptable to both parents regarding legal and physical custody and visitation. Parents may also want to discuss whether they would be willing to allow another parent to travel with their children while the children are in that parent’s custody, as travel terms may be discussed and drafted during mediation.

If a parent is concerned that the other is not mentally or psychologically capable of caring for his or her children, they may want to speak with an attorney about requesting a psychological evaluation. An attorney may prepare a request for an Evidence Code Section 730 evaluation, which would entail having a psychologist meet with each of the parents and with the child in order to make a recommendation to the court regarding custody. Attorneys may also request custody evaluations in the event that one parent wants to relocate with the parties’ children.

Although divorces and child custody disputes can be volatile, parents should do their best to keep their disputes with their ex-partners separate from their interactions with their children. For more information, please view our page on child custody and visitation.

Source: Miller & Associates, “Child Custody and Visitation“, September 04, 2014