What rights does the father have in the state of California?
It is a common misconception that a father’s rights versus the mother’s rights are different, but in the court’s view, they treat them the same. There are some intricacies as to why a father versus a mother is going to have different visitation, but it is not entirely based solely on the fact of father versus mother. Generally, the father has the exact rights as the mother in the state of California, and that is to have legal and physical custody. Legal custody is determining the health, education, and welfare decisions for the child. And physical custody addresses when the child is going to spend time with each parent.
Why should you hire a lawyer for a Father’s Rights case?
The most important aspect for Father’s Rights cases is when the child is very young. Although the father and the mother have the same rights in the state of California, when the child is young, the child primarily is dependent on Mom for biological reasons. Biologically, young children are more dependent and accustomed to Mom in the sense that they know Mom’s voice, and they may need Mom for nutrition if she is breastfeeding the child. Oftentimes, when the child is young, the child will be with Mom more, but it has nothing to do with whether Dad is a good parent or not. Father’s should hire an attorney right away to ensure that they are getting the most visitation they can when the child is young. The court usually refers to visitation as “frequent and continuous contact”. A child at that age has a very short, if not no, memory. So, people coming in and out of a child’s life are not going to be familiar to the child unless the child has “frequent and continuous contact” with that parent. It is important that father establish that precedence so they can ensure their visitation will increase in the future.
How does the court determine custody?
There are two types of custody; legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody is making decisions about the child’s health, education, and welfare. It is the court’s standard to default to a joint legal custody situation versus a sole legal custody situation. That means that then both parents have the right to make those types of decisions for the child. In terms of physical custody, which is usually the issue that most parents litigate about, the court is going to look at the history of what has been going on for the last six months to a year. How often has that child seen the father or mother? How often have they talked on the phone? How far do they live from each other? What involvement does each parent have in their life? Do the parents take them to doctor’s appointments? Have the doctor’s appointments been completely ignored? How is the child’s attendance record? So, they are basically looking at what has gone on with the child and the role that each parent has taken with that child, in order to determine what would be in the “child’s best interest” for future custody and visitation orders. If the Court is inclined to change visitation, they will change it gradually. The court refers to that kind of progressive parenting as step up visitation. For example, if the parent was not very involved with their child for a year or two, but now wants custody and visitation of their child, the court is going to give them an opportunity to do that. Instead of going to 50/50 right away, the court may start with one day on each weekend and after two months that increases to two days each weekend. After another period of time, it could increase to every other weekend from Friday to Sunday, and so on as would be appropriate in that situation.
What do I need to do to protect my rights as a father?
The most important thing is to have visitation with your child. If a period of time goes by where the father or the mother (the court largely sees them the same as parents) does not have time with their child, the parent will have to regain that time. Parents need to continue to be involved in their child’s life. Have that visitation, even if it is for a few hours, a dinner, etc. Phone calls are always important and should continue to take place, given that the child is of an appropriate age to speak on the phone. See the child; talk to the child; take the child to doctor’s appointments; participate in their extracurricular activities. Continue to do that so a precedence is established that you are an active parent in that child’s life. Obviously, when the child is younger, it is important for the father to establish that continuous and frequent contact right off the bat.
Why hire Fischer and Van Thiel?
We primarily handle divorces, custody and visitation cases, and even paternity cases where the parents are not married but there is a child involved. On a day-to-day basis we deal with the issues of custody and visitation and prepare each client specifically for family court services based on the facts and circumstances of their case. Family court services is a free mediation service provided by the court that each case is required to go through on the issue of custody and visitation. It is extremely important for each party to be individually prepared to go forward to family court services since the attorneys are not allowed to go and speak on their behalf. We have ample experience on these issues, and we also have the benefit of knowing the judges. Going in front of these judges on a daily or weekly basis gives us a little insight into how each judge acts that often a “pro per” or self-represented litigant does not have the benefit of having. Fischer and Van Thiel has the experience, the knowledge, and the legal background to put a client’s best case forward.
For more information or to schedule a free initial consultation with an experienced Carlsbad Family Law Attorney, please contact us by filling out our online intake form or calling us at 760-722-7669.