Loving parents faced with a dispute over child custody have occasionally used tactics that the Courts did not favor. While it is impossible to describe all the things that should be avoided when seeking to secure time with your child(ren), a few examples of what not to do may be helpful. A good divorce attorney will counsel their clients that they should focus every argument and tactic on the best interest of the child(ren). Sometimes parents forget this basic point, and their over the top tactics have not worked out very well.
In Keith R. v. Superior Court (2009) 174 Cal.App.4th 1047, the mother alleged Domestic Violence, got a CLETS Order, and then, while the father still was working on completing his 52 week batterer’s intervention program, filed her move away motion so she could take the child with her to Arizona. Her timing was excellent, from a kick your opponent when he is down perspective, since the father could not complete the 52 week program before the move away hearing, and therefore, she argued under the custody language in the CLETS Order which could not be changed until after the 52 week program was completed, she had sole custody and father could not show a change in circumstances to allow him to dispute the sole custody, and therefore he could not dispute the move away. Unfortunately for mother, the Appellate Court ruled that a Domestic Violence Order is not a final custody determination. Going back to basics, the Appellate Court wanted an actual weighing of the best interests of the minor child before the move away.
In In re Marriage of Nurie (2009) 176 Cal.App.4th 478 the mother took the five-month old child to Pakistan, with the father, on the pretense that she intended to return in a few weeks. She stayed in Pakistan. Father filed a divorce in California when he found out he had been tricked, and was granted temporary custody of the child. After mother was served with the California Order, she then filed in Pakistan. The Pakistani Court first rejected the mother’s request, but unfazed, she re-tricked the father into signing a compromise agreement, which agreement was based on the intent that she return to California with the child. In predictable “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me” fashion, the mother reneged on the compromise agreement and stayed in Pakistan. After much legal wrangling in Pakistan, the father and three armed accomplices allegedly kidnapped the child outside the mother’s lawyer’s office in Karachi, and returned him to California. The Court declined to determine the truth of the kidnapping allegation, and stated that it could not ignore that the mother had willfully disobeyed the California Court Order grating father temporary custody.
In Robert J. v. Catherine D. (2009) 171 Cal.App.4th 1500 the mother accused the father of child abuse and neglect. Almost two years after the accusation, the Court entered a Judgment granting the father full legal custody and exonerating him of the accusations. The father sought sanctions under Family Code §3027.1. He sought sanctions of more than $750,000 against the mother and her attorney. The statute allows sanctions against both the other party and their counsel if the allegation of abuse or neglect was false, was made in a child custody proceeding, and the person or persons making the allegation knew it was false when they made it.
A good divorce attorney will counsel you on how to present your side of a child custody dispute without making the Court angry or being sanctioned. As shown in the three examples above, procedural trickery with a CLETS, ignoring a valid custody order, and falsely accusing the other parent of child abuse were all failed tactics. At the law offices of Thomas Chase Stutzman, A Professional Corporation we work hard to preserve your credibility with the Court while at the same time aggressively advancing your claim that your custody and visitation plan is what is best for your minor child(ren).