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FAQs: Child Custody in Corona

What is Best Interests of the Child mean?

In California, the paramount concern for every family law judge is to make orders that most benefit children involved in the proceeding. Whether it is a divorce (also called dissolution of marriage), paternity, or post-judgment case, the same laws apply to how your Corona, Riverside County family court judge is supposed to view the case. The California Legislature demanded that the courts consider as its top priority the “best interests” of children when making orders, not the parties to the case. There are a number of considerations that the court must follow when considering what is in a child’s best interests.

What factors does the Court consider when determine Best Interests for Child Custody?

The court is obligated to look at a wide variety of factors when considering what parenting plan arrangement is in a child’s best interest when there is a divorce, legal separation or paternity case pending. Keep in mind that generally everything that might possibly have relevance probably does in the court’s view, so it is important to be well prepared for any child custody and visitation hearing. Generally, the courts consider that a child should have “frequent and continuing contact” with both parents. Studies have shown that children are better off when they have a good relationship with both parents. The court also considers whether a parent has a history of alcohol or substance abuse issues, the living arrangements of each parent, the history of a parent’s mental illness, each parent’s involvement with parenting, the bond the child has with each parent, the living arrangements for the child’s siblings, and other similar considerations.

What is the order of preference for child custody orders?

When the court is charged with determining a parenting plan for a child, the family court judge must follow the law in determining the order of preference for caretakers. First, the law wants both parents to be involved with the parenting of the child, and if one parent is unable or unwilling to parent the child then the preference is for the other parent to handle all the parenting. Next, if the parents are unavailable to care for the child then the court can look to others to parent the child, including relatives and non-relatives with a close relationship with the child.

What is the UCCJEA for Corona custody cases?

The UCCJEA stands for “Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act”, which is a set of laws that has been adopted by every state within the United States except one. The statutes are meant to provide a clear way for courts of different states and countries to deal with issues of custody when more than one state or country may have an interest in making orders. The UCCJEA prevents forum shopping, where a parent might move from state to state to try and get the best custody orders. As part of the UCCJEA, states are required to acknowledge another state’s court orders for parenting time and custody, and may only modify another state’s or country’s orders under certain circumstances.

What is the “home state” for purposes of child custody orders?

A child’s “home state” is where they have lived for the past six months, or if the child is a newborn where they have lived since birth if they are less than six months old. A child’s home state might change once, twice or even more often over the child’s lifetime as a minor.

When can California modify another state’s custody orders under the UCCJEA?

When a parent lives in Corona or elsewhere in Riverside County, and the parents have custody orders from another state or country already, there are only certain circumstances where the courts in California are permitted to modify the custody orders. In order to modify another jurisdiction’s valid custody order, California must be the “home state” of the child, which means that the child has had to live in California for at least six months prior to filing the modification action. Next, neither parent can still be living in the issuing state’s jurisdiction. For example, if a mother and child moved from Arizona to California, and Arizona had previously made child custody orders and the father remains living in Arizona, the California court is not permitted to modify Arizona’s orders unless the court in Arizona specifically allows California to take control of the case. California courts also have the ability to modify another jurisdiction’s custody orders when there is an emergency, but those orders are temporary in nature only and the issuing state retains jurisdiction over the matter.

What is Child Custody Recommendation Counseling (CCRC)?

CCRC is a mandatory mediation session required by California law prior to a hearing on custody and visitation. During CCRC, parents speak with a court-representative about an appropriate parenting plan, and the court officer writes a recommendation to the judge. Being prepared for CCRC is an absolute necessity, as the recommendation made to the judge carries a lot of weight. However, judges are not obligated to adopt a CCRC recommendation report at the hearing.

What happens during a child custody hearing?

For Corona family law participants, going to court can be one of the most daunting and emotional challenges that a parent will ever face. Being prepared for court is essential. Wear appropriate clothing (business casual is preferred). Prior to the hearing, the family court judge will review the CCRC report, and in some cases might take testimony from the parties and others. Parents are always encouraged to reach agreements outside of court. If the parents are unable to reach an agreement, the judge will make custody orders, usually on the day of the hearing. The attorneys will then prepare a formal “Findings and Order After Hearing” to document the orders.

What if I don’t like my CCRC recommendation?

There are a variety of ways to dispute a CCRC recommendation. First, you can orally disagree with the report during the hearing. In this case, you or your attorney will prepare a bullet-point list of items to discuss with the judge. This is effective, but usually not the most effective way to combat a “bad” report. Second, you can write a declaration setting forth your objections to the report. Third, you can call the court officer that made the written recommendation as a witness and cross-examine them about the report. If this is to be done, there are a number of strict rules that must be followed (including getting the appropriate court permission and hearing on calendar, issuing a subpoena to the recommending officer, paying a witness fee, giving notice to the other side, etc.) Third, you can ask the court to set an “evidentiary” hearing pursuant to Family Code 217 to allow for the cross-examination of witnesses relating to the parenting plan.

How do I choose the best custody lawyer in Corona?

Attorneys that handle family law, divorce and custody cases in Corona have a wide variety of backgrounds, experience, and methodology to successfully handling cases. It is important to understand that there are many excellent attorneys that handle these types of cases, but certain attorneys may or may not jive with your personality and goals. For example, if you want to pursue a child custody case aggressively just because you want to “get back” at the other parent, our office is not a good fit for you. While we often act aggressively in custody disputes, there is always a purpose to what we do. We often counsel people to interview a number of attorneys and choose the right one for your case.

For more information about child custody in Corona, California, contact our office today. We are centrally located and offer a free, private consultation.