Is Your Ex-Spouse Curbing Your Child’s Technology Addiction?

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

orange county divorce lawyers; The Maggio Law FirmWhen your ex-spouse and you share the physical and legal custody of your child, it is better to agree on a schedule for your child’s activities. For instance, you both can decide at what time your child should go to bed, how much playtime your child should have, how much time your child may watch TV, and so on. This will make it easier for your child to move between his/her two homes. This consistency will also help to promote family unity. However, while most of the time your ex-spouse and you may agree on the rules for your child, sometimes you both may disagree on something. For instance, your ex-spouse may think that providing unlimited screen time to the child may help him/her in the future in terms of getting a job, and you may think that excessive screen time would cause the child to develop digital dementia. Trying to resolve this by putting your foot down may not be the best approach. For one, your ex-spouse may not be willing to listen to you and there is nothing you can do about that. Second, you may just alienate your child by trying to curb his/her screen time.

The calm approach

The best approach to tackle this situation is the calm approach. Just sit with your ex-spouse and discuss the issue. Make him/her understand that the child is getting addicted to the technologies, he/she is spending way too much time on their iPad, smartphone, laptop, and so on. The child may be getting addicted to the Pokemon Go game, and it is putting his/her safety on the line. The video games he/she is playing may be too violent. The child may be much too involved in social media. By having a practical discussion, you both may decide on the best course for your child.

Seek court intervention

If your ex-spouse is not willing to discuss the issue of technology addiction with you, you may seek the intervention of the family court. However, before you take this approach, you have to be absolutely sure that your child is addicted to technology, and it is affecting his/her overall well-being. You may have to prove in the court that your child’s technology addiction is causing him/her to perform poorly in the school or the violent video games are affecting the child’s mental well-being or the Pokemon Go game is putting your child’s safety at risk. Your ex-spouse, of course, would counter all this, he/she would argue that the technology is actually making the child smarter, the video games are helping him/her to bond with the child, and so on. So, unless you have solid proof, do not seek court intervention.

At the end of the day, all you can do is encourage healthy behaviors in your child. Be innovative. Instead of just taking away his/her iPad, let him/her bring it along while going fishing. Slowly, your child may see things your way, and make the best decision for himself/herself.

Getting divorced in California can be complicated.  Download our free eBook, 18 Important Things to Know About California Divorce to educate yourself on the process.  

Determining A Child’s Preference In California Custody Cases

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

Orange County divorce lawyer; The Maggio Law FirmWhile deciding upon the final verdict in child custody related divorce cases, the court of law has the obligation to keep the best interests of the child in mind. The history of child custody settlement methods has been quite prolific and frequently changing in the state of California. Quite a few years back, the concept of acknowledging the child’s preference in deciding upon his custody and visitation related settlement was shunned as an unnecessary ordeal. At that time, the preference of a child was considered meekly only if he had reached his teenage years.

However, with the recent transformation of the family law in California, the statutes have become more progressive and accepting of the child’s right in voicing his opinion regarding his custody and visitation related preferences.

Understanding California Family Code section 3042 

California Family Code section states a few guidelines for the court of law while dealing with child custody related cases.

  • A child who is of adequate age and reasoning capacity to make a sensible decision regarding his custody and visitation preferences, will be given due consideration by the court of law in deciding upon the final verdict.
  • Apart from the statutes of the Evidence code section 765 subdivision b, the court has the obligation to limit the cross examination of a child witness in order to protect his best interests.
  • A child who is 14 years of age or older, has the right to state his or her preferences regarding his custody and visitation, unless the court identifies it as a threat to his best interests and well being. In such cases, the court has the obligation of stating the specific reasons for avoiding the same.

Preference of children of age 14 and above 

As per the aforementioned California Family Code 3042, a child who is 14 years of age or older has the right to state their preference regarding custody and visitation to the court regarding his or her custody and visitation related orders. The court has the duty to listen to his wishes and determine whether taking a decision in his favor will ensure his best interests or not. The specific age limit has been identified by the Californian court of law as a time when a child has developed sound emotional maturity and a sensible rationale, and is capable of articulating the reasons behind his preferred choices.

However, the child’s preference is not considered as the ultimate decider of the final verdict. It is left to the court’s discretion to decide the settlement as per its own evaluation of the specific circumstances.

Getting divorced in California and dealing with custody issues can be complicated.  Download our free eBook, 18 Important Things to Know About California Divorce to educate yourself on the process.  

What To Know About Visitation Orders

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

child custody attorneys Orange County; The Maggio Law FirmChild visitation, increasingly referred to as a parent’s parenting schedule so as to not minimalize the parenting of the party who has less custodial time than the other, is a plan incorporated within a court order which stipulates the time and duration of visits a separating parent can see his or her children. A parent who gets to spend less than half of the time with his or her children can be termed as having visitation with them. Just like child custody settlements, depending upon several factors such as specific circumstances of the case and best interests of the child, the court may order various kinds of visitations for the separating parent.

Visitation as per a specified schedule

More often than not, a visitation order might become a topic for constant conflict and disputes between the separating parents. In order to avoid the confusion stemming out of a visitation order, the court of law designs a comprehensive visitation schedule which specifies the dates and times of each parent’s visit. The visitation schedule will also include special occasions such as birthdays, vacations and Thanksgiving. 

Reasonable visitation

A reasonable visitation can be touted as an open ended court order which allows room for mutual agreements on the schedule by the couple itself. Since this type of visitation order does not typically lay down the schedule timings, it can be effective only in the cases wherein the parents are able to get along well and communicate peacefully with each other. A disagreement or misunderstanding between the parents over a reasonable visitation can be highly detrimental to the mental and emotional well being of the child. 

Supervised visitation

There are certain specific divorce cases, wherein it is decided by the court of law that the visitation is carried out under the supervision of a third party. If a court sees a level of threat to the safety and well being of a child, it may order for supervised visitation which will be carried out in the presence of the other parent, another adult or a law professional. Supervised visitation is also ordered in cases where a parent has not been in touch with the child for long and needs to get more familiar with the latter by means of visits. 

No visitation

The court of law has the right to entirely deny any visitation to a parent, which even under supervision poses a significant threat to the physical or mental well being of the child. In such cases, it is deemed against the best interest of the child to have any sort of contact with the abusive parent.

Getting divorced in California can be complicated.  Download our free eBook, 18 Important Things to Know About California Divorce to educate yourself on the process.  

How To Deal With Parental Alienation In Custody Cases

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

Top Orange County divorce lawyers; The Maggio Law FirmIn order to act against parental alienation, you first need to educate yourself about what parental alienation actually is. Once you are fully aware of what parental alienation is and how it is affecting you, your child, and your relationship with each other; you will be able to tackle it in a better way.

Many experts have suggested a number of ways of acting against parental alienation. But you will have to decide what is best suited for you.

Tackling it head on

Have a talk with the child directly. They should be made to realize that their opinion about you is wrong, that they are being manipulated, and that their behavior towards you is baseless and inappropriate. You could directly talk to the other parent also. But there is every possible chance that the other parent will outright refuse any sort of manipulative behavior. Arrange a family meeting if possible.

Enroll in a parenting program

You could attend parenting programs and seek the help of a parenting consultant. Any consultant with experience and expertise in parental alienation will be able to guide you. You will become aware of the steps and strategies that you can take to prevent your child from feeling alienated from you.

Consult with a lawyer

If everything else fails, you should consider enlisting the help of a lawyer with good experience of practicing family law. Sometimes the threat of a legal action may get the other parent to tone down a bit and correct themselves. But before you can consult with a lawyer you need to document the alienation you are experiencing. You should have proof of the verbal accusations the child has said the other parent has made against you.

The lawyer will be able to send a legal notice to the other parent asking for an explanation of their unacceptable behavior. The lawyer will also explain the laws regarding parental alienation to the other parent and state the consequences they may have to face if they continued with their manipulative behavior. It may include court action. In serious cases of alienation, where the other parent has falsely accused you of something, your lawyer can take court action immediately.  You should not sit back and accept parental alienation, but you need to have an understanding that undoing parental alienation can be a long, difficult process even if you have legal representation and reunification therapy ordered to be implemented.

Getting divorced in California can be complicated.  Download our free eBook, 18 Important Things to Know About California Divorce to educate yourself on the process.  

Understanding Supervised Visitation

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

child custody attorneys in Orange CountyThe State of California stipulates that all child custody related arrangements with reference to parental divorce cases would incorporate the best interest of the child. As per the specific situation, the court of law will decide a settlement which would imply that either both or one of the parents will be granted the shared or single custody of the child respectively. In addition to the child custody, the judge may decide the visitation arrangements for the child which would order the child to have contact with one parent only in the presence of neutral third party. The aforementioned arrangement is termed as supervised visitation. In such a settlement, the court has the right to specify the duration and time of visitation. In some cases, the judge might further allot the third party supervision to specific persons and list out the places where the visitation can take place.

When does a court grant supervised visitation?

There are several cases wherein a court will require the parent to carry out supervised visitation with their child, such as:

  • In cases where a parent would like to address some specific issues with the child
  • In order to recreate a bonding with a long absent parent
  • To facilitate an introduction between the parent and child in cases wherein there was a nonexistent relationship between the two.
  • In cases wherein there is a history of domestic violence or physical abuse
  • In cases where there is a threat of parental abduction

Who is a supervised visitation provider?

A supervised visitation provider can be anyone ranging from a neutral family member, a friend or even a professional. It is the provider’s duty to oversee all the visitations cautiously and ensure that all the separate parties involved in the process are kept safe and free of any harm. The provider is obliged to stay around during all the visits and also keep a close track of what is being discussed and how the child is responding to it. Since it is his job to ensure everything goes on smoothly for the child, the provider is supposed to report the parent’s misbehavior or child abuse to the court. He further has the right to interrupt or even put an end to the visit if required.

The supervised visitation providers may be broadly classified into two categories, namely non-professional and professional providers. While non-professional providers are somewhat related to your family or friend circle and are not paid, the professional providers charge a fee for their services.

Getting divorced in California can be complicated.  Download our free eBook, 18 Important Things to Know About California Divorce to educate yourself on the process.  

The Impact Of Domestic Violence On Child Custody Cases

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

Domestic violence Orange County attorneys; The Maggio Law FirmThe child custody and visitation laws are separately dealt with in divorce lawsuits involving child abuse or domestic violence. It is the duty of the judge to establish whether there is a genuine case of any kind of physical or mental abuse or not. If yes, the court of law must follow specific rules and guidelines to reach a final verdict in terms of custody and visitation rights of the parents involved.

What is regarded as domestic violence by the State of California? 

Many times, the victims of domestic abuse end up thinking that they have not been subjected to any violence unless it is causing any physical harm to them. However, the State of California defines the conditions wherein an act would be considered domestic violence by the court of law such as:

  • Subjecting the victim to intentional bodily harm or injury
  • Sexual assault
  • Scaring the victim to have a constant fear of being physically harmed by the perpetrator
  • Other actions that might drive a court to issue a restraining order against the acting individual such as physical assault, harassment, stalking or unwanted phone calls

How the court of law decides custody and visitation in cases of domestic violence?

While deciding upon the child custody and visitation rights of a parent, the court is obliged to ensure the best interests of the child at all costs. In the event of a domestic violence being involved in a divorce lawsuit, the judge has the right to limit or block contacts of the child with the abusive parent. Evidence of domestic violence reported by law enforcement, social welfare agencies, child protective services and medical facilities would be acceptable as substantial proof of abuse and will be held against the defendant.

Since the court is obliged to ensure the child’s best interests at all times, exposing him to any kind of domestic violence will be against the policy of his protection. In such cases, the judge might either order supervised visitation for the abusive parent or completely bar overnight visits. In case a protective order has been issued, the judge might stipulate pre determined conditions for the visitation or even entirely deny it.  In cases involving extreme abuse, the court may go to the lengths of ordering a permanent and complete termination of the parental rights of the abusive individual.

Getting divorced in California can be complicated.  Download our free eBook, 18 Important Things to Know About California Divorce to educate yourself on the process.  

Steps Involved In Child Custody Mediation

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

Orange County divorce lawyer; The Maggio Law FirmWhen you get divorced and need to sort out custody for your children, child custody mediation is usually the least stressful way to handle custody agreements. Unless your ex-spouse is an unfit parent for your children, try as much as you can to settle custody through mediation rather than dragging your family, and your children, through the heart wrenching agony of a bitter custody trial.

If you’re unsure of what mediation might look like, day-to-day, read on to find out.

When you decide on mediation, you, your attorney, your ex-spouse, and their attorney decide to come to a custody agreement in the presence of a divorce mediator instead of a judge.

When preparing for mediation proceedings, it is highly recommended that you hire an attorney, write out detailed schedules for your child, draft a custody agreement and visitation proposal, and make sure that you have all the documents you need concerning your child. Your attorney will be able to advice you regarding those documents.

Mediation processes usually follow a set of steps that are fairly standard—you meet with the mediator, figure out the issues that require mediation, discuss a custody agreement draft with your ex-spouse while making required changes throughout the process, and then sign the agreement.

When in mediation, you should discuss the following issues:

  • Figure out regular custody and visitation—are you going to share custody or not? Will the child remain with one parent most of the time? What does visitation look like?
  • Once you arrive at a custody situation, start defining the parameters and the boundaries of the time you have with your kids. Where will your kids spend specific holidays or school vacations? Can one parent take the child on long vacations? Under what circumstances can changes be made to the current visitation schedule? Also, this is the time to figure out how you can go about changing the custody agreement on a permanent basis if required.
  • The other important issue you need to discuss concerns the raising of your children. Discuss things like schools, activities, religious training, medical care, dental and vision care, sports, etc. Figure out who wants to be involved where, and make it happen. Also figure out how you’ll split costs for things like college or private school, or even emergency medical care if required.
  • If you run into problems or disagree with each other, listen to the mediator and try and arrive at an amicable solution. Compromise, because the other party will compromise as well, and ultimately, this will benefit your children.

Once the agreement is drafted and signed, you can and should expect your ex-spouse to honor it.

Getting divorced in California can be complicated.  Download our free eBook, 18 Important Things to Know About California Divorce to educate yourself on the process.

So What Happens After Court-Ordered Custody Mediation?

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

orange county child custody attorneys; The Maggio Law FirmIt is believed that court-ordered child custody mediation at the court helps warring parents reach an agreement regarding issues of child custody and visitation rights. The mediator, keeping the best interests of the child in mind, helps you to come up with a parenting plan on the various issues.

Full agreement – If complete agreement has been reached on all issues, both the parents will have to sign a written agreement prepared by the mediator. When it gets approved by the court, it becomes an official court order.

Partial agreement- If the parties are only able to agree on some but not all of the issues, the mediator can draft up an agreement on those issues and list out the issues that still remain to be decided by the court.

No agreement – If the parties involved (the parents) are not able to find the middle ground, the mediator’s work is essentially done in Orange County custody cases.  That is because Orange County is not a “reporting” county.  However, in “reporting” counties like Riverside County and San Bernardino counties, the mediator can make custody recommendations and proposed custody orders for the court to consider at the hearing.  So in those counties, if you do not agree to the recommendations made by the mediator, you will have to give your reasons to the judge during a court hearing. The judge will be interested to know the specific reasons.

Court hearing – A court hearing will be necessary if the recommendations are not acceptable (in reporting counties) or the parents have not been able to resolve their disputes or if one of the parents changed their mind after first coming to an agreement in court.  If all issues have been resolved, a court hearing is not required as long as the mediation agreement is incorporated into a written Stipulation & Order that is signed by both parties and then filed with the court.

Getting divorced in California can be complicated.  Download our free eBook, 18 Important Things to Know About California Divorce to educate yourself on the process.  

Understanding Orange County Mandatory Custody Mediation

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

Top Orange County divorce attorneys; The Maggio Law FirmIn Orange County, court-ordered custody mediation at the courthouse needs to be carried out when the parents are in dispute regarding issues of visitation and custody before the matter can proceed to a hearing. It generally occurs when one parent wants a change in the custody or visitation order and the other parent does not agree.

Mediation is done to help negotiate between the parents. A mental health professional acts as a mediator who assists in the negotiations to help the parents reach an agreement.

Preparing for court-ordered custody mediation at the court is important and its is necessary to know a few things before the session.

Appointments – The Family Court Services will set you a date and time for when you will have to meet your mediator. You will be guided through the parent orientation program which offers suggestions and advice regarding co-parenting.

If one party misses the scheduled appointment and the other party is present, then the counseling will take place as scheduled. Because the time period between the counseling and the court hearing is so short, it becomes very difficult to reschedule an appointment. If both parties do not attend the mediation, the session will get canceled but will need to be rescheduled before the parties can appear in front of the judge at the hearing. Valid reasons for missing the appointment will have to be provided.

Confidentiality – All communications related to Court-ordered custody mediation kept strictly confidential by all parties involved. Also, no party can communicate with the mediator without the presence or knowledge of the other parties any time before or after the appointment.

Form filling – A completed copy of the ‘Family Court Services Parenting Plan Questionnaire’ has to be submitted to the mediator either the day before or on the same day of the counseling. There is no more information that needs to be provided unless asked for by the mediator.

Interviews – Both parents are interviewed at the same time during the mediation. Telephone interviews may be done in some cases where one of the parents is not available locally.

Other situations – Certain situations may arise where the presence of a support person during counseling is required. This happens if there is a Restraining Order against a parent.

Getting divorced in California can be complicated.  Download our free eBook, 18 Important Things to Know About California Divorce to educate yourself on the process.  

The Effect of Religion on Child Custody Issues

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

orange county child custody attorneys; The Maggio Law Firm

Considering the fact that the number of inter religion marriages is on the rise, the process of divorce has become a tad too difficult to manage. One of the chief concerns in the separation or divorce of parents of different faiths, is to decide the religion the child will follow. Despite the fact that the issue has been discussed at length in several courtrooms across the country, the ultimate result has hardly been anything, remotely agreed upon. More often than not, the courts have decided upon such child custody issues, using different standards and guidelines for different cases involved.

The best interest of the child vs. parental rights

The primary approach of the courts towards resolving religion related disputes is to obtain a balance between two engaging concerns. The first concern is the protection and enforcement of the parent’s first amendment rights, which allow him to follow a faith of his choice, and also raise his children as per his religious orientation. The second issue is that the court needs to conserve the best interest of the child, when deciding upon the child custody and visitation settlements.

In case, one of the parents reprimands the other parent on the pretext that the latter’s religious acts are not in line with the best interest of the child, the court is faced with the onerous task of deciding, whether it should infringe upon the first amendment rights of the latter or not.

Many a times, the court of law determines custody and visitation related arrangements, which can include considering the personal choice of the child involved. More often than not, in divorce or separation cases, involving children of 14 years and above, the judges reach a final custody and visitation related verdict by keeping the wishes of the child as the deciding factor. Similarly, in cases related to making a decision regarding the religion to be practiced by a child, the court usually asks the child itself, to decide as to which faith it wishes to follow. 

The enforcement of the parents’ first amendment rights

The court of  law has the right to decide whether the parents’ first amendment and parenting rights will be taken into account or not. In many cases, the court will not allow the enforcement of first amendment rights, if the religious practices of the parent concerned are likely to cause harm to the child. Furthermore, if a custodial parent disapproves of the religious practices of the other parent, the court will usually give a verdict in congruence with the custodial parent’s wishes.

Although, the different states have different set of laws that govern their divorce litigation, the basis of all trials is the fact that for all custody related issues, the child’s best interest has to be kept above all other considerations.

Getting divorced in California can be complicated.  Download our free eBook, 18 Important Things to Know About California Divorce to educate yourself on the process.  

No Legal Advice Intended: This website includes information about legal issues and legal developments. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and should not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You should contact an attorney for advice on specific legal problems. Full disclaimer.