Fathers’ Rights in Orange County California Child Custody Cases – Part 1
If you are a father facing an initial custody determination in an Orange County divorce case, or you are contemplating modifying your current custody orders, this question has no doubt come across your mind: “Do fathers have rights in an Orange County California child custody case?” Relax. The answer is, “Of course they do.” I’ve heard one of the Orange County Family Court judges often quote California Family Code section 3010 (a), which states, “The mother of an unemancipated minor child and the father, if presumed to be the father under Section 7611, are equally entitled to the custody of the child.” Justice, they say, is blind. Both moms and dads are presumed to be equally capable of having custody of a child.
Everyone, mothers and fathers alike, starts out in the same position as being presumed capable of having custody of a child. From that first step of being presumed equal, many mothers and fathers in a custody case undermine that presumption from a practical point of view. The core consideration of who should have custody of a child in a child custody case is what is in the best interests of the child. That is the central focus of the inquiry in a litigated custody matter. A family court judge deciding custody and visitation issues will want to hear evidence relevant to the child’s best interest and from there will decide how much time the child should spend with each parent and who will have custody. Family Code section 3011 describes the factors the Court will consider in making its “best interests of the child” inquiry. These child custody factors include the health, safety, and welfare of the child, the parents, their significant others and members of their households, family relations, the nature and extent of each parent’s relationship with the child, history of abuse, drug abuse, etc. The list can go on for quite a while, and in a custody case, almost any sort of evidence bearing on the best interests standard can come into play.
So fathers, if you are considering a modification of child custody or are at the initial phases of a child custody determination, you should try to answer the question, why me? Why am I equally suited as (or possibly better suited than) the child’s mother to be the child’s caregiver? What have I done that shows it is in the child’s best interests to spend more time with me? And how consistently do I do it? Parenting is not just the fun things in a child’s life, like sports. It includes the needful things like feeding them, helping them with their homework and taking them to the doctor. Think about where you fall on the spectrum for a while. Why not make a list of the things you do for your children (everything, not just the ones for which you might seek praise)? Then come back soon for part 2 of my focus on father’s child custody rights.
If you need help resolving a child custody issue, why not try resolving matters with our family law mediation services?