What You Need to Know About Seeking Sole Custody in California

sole custodyAfter a divorce or separation, seeking sole custody of your children may the next important step in protecting the best interests of your family. Yes, child custody cases can be both complex and unpleasant. This is especially so if one of the parents is believed to be unfit or unable to adequately care for the child due to many different reasons such as substance abuse or domestic violence.

If you’re unsure of how to seek sole custody of your child under California state laws, the Law Offices of Rick D. Banks is here to help you navigate the legal system.

What Is Sole Custody?

It’s important to have a full understanding what sole custody is. “Child custody” refers to the rights and responsibilities that a parent has for taking care of their child. There are different types of custody arrangements that a judge can order. With sole custody, just one parent has the legal right and responsibility to make decisions regarding the welfare of the child.

What people don’t know is that sole custody can be two different forms: sole legal custody and sole physical custody.

Requesting Sole Custody in California

It’s important to note that California’s family law courts typically favors that a child has frequent contact with both parents and encourages joint custody. Therefore, there has to be a compelling reason for a judge to award full or sole custody to one parent. A parent seeking sole custody should know that simply your word is not enough to stand up in court. In fact, you need to be able to provide persuasive evidence that the father or mother is not fit to have legal claim over the child they share.

What kind of evidence can you use to support a sole custody request? In cases where domestic violence was an issue, findings supporting this claim such as a police report can persuade the court to grant sole legal and physical custody in favor of the parent who was the victim of the domestic violence. California family courts also take substance abuse into consideration when determining sole custody. This often includes alcohol abuse, prescription medication misuse and the usage of other illicit drugs. An allegation is not enough for the court to grant full custody. Therefore, you’ll need to obtain an order for a drug and alcohol test.

The primary goal when seeking full custody is to show that it is in the best interest of the children. You’ll have to show that the other parent’s lifestyle and behavior compromise the general well being of the child. Sometimes scheduled or monitored visitations may be an alternative to sole custody. Or the judge may grant another type of order.

Are You Facing Allegations in a Child Custody Dispute?

For a parent facing a full custody request, you must provide strong evidence that you are capable of taking care of your responsibilities as a parent. If the other party made drug or alcohol allegations, you’ll have to show that such accusations are false. On the other hand, if drugs or alcohol were an issue in the past you can provide evidence that you successfully completed a rehabilitation program. Or you can show that you’ve found other ways to eliminate your addiction issues.

You should take false allegations of domestic violence or abuse seriously. This requires immediate action. Undocumented abuse or failure to provide witnesses to support such claims will create he said and she said scenario. In cases like this, you’ll need to seek the help of a good family law attorney.

Contact a California Lawyer to Learn More About Sole Custody Cases

Cases in which a parent is seeking full custody can be complex and emotionally charged. Whether you’re dealing with a former partner who is unfit to care for the child or your the one being painted as a bad parent legal help is necessary. The Law Offices of Rick D. Banks has over a decade of experience in dealing with such cases. Let us help you determine the best strategy for your sole custody case.

Establishing Visitation Rights for Unmarried Parents

visitation rights for unmarried parentsEstablishing visitation rights for unmarried parents often presents a legal challenge. In such cases, it’s important to settle the question of paternity, determine rightful custody as well as make appropriate child support arrangements. When you add visitation rights to the mix, things can become much more complex. This is true especially if the parents are divorced or were never initially married. While the best interests of the child are always the primary concern, as a parent you have certain rights. A family law attorney at the Law Offices of Rick D. Banks can ensure that your protect your rights and responsibilities.

Unwed parents who separate after the birth of their child should set up legal visitation in to protect themselves. In many cases, conflict between the two individuals or simply relying on promises can make things difficult. Therefore, seeking the help of a qualified divorce attorney is necessary to navigate the family court system.

What Are the Legal Rights of Unwed Mothers?

Generally, the courts will award sole custody to the mother, since typically the birth certificate only lists her name. In instances like this, the father will have to prove that he is the biological parent. He must prove paternity to establish whether he even has custodial rights. Until paternity is proven, under California state law, the mother is presumed to be the only legal parent. However, if the court believes the unmarried mother to be unfit to provide adequate care or has abandoned the child, the father can contest this in court.

Legal physical custody gives the mother the right to make important decisions when it comes to raising the child.  She’ll have the right to make decisions regarding:

  • Schooling or childcare
  • Religion
  • Place or residence
  • Healthcare

As the only legal parent, in the eyes of the law the mother is solely responsible for the general well being of the child. Yes, without proving paternity the father has no legal obligation to provide child support.

However, in many cases the unmarried parents come to an agreement for the father to take on an active role by contributing to caring for the child by perhaps paying for daycare, buying groceries or in other vital ways. This arrangement can be successful for a period of time. But things often change, and with no legally binding rights the father can choose to cease support at any given time.

What Are the Rights of the Unmarried Father?

If the parents are unmarried, the biological father can be granted visitation rights. However, if the birth certificate does not list the father’s name, he doesn’t have any legal claim over his child. As previously mentioned, establishing paternity with the state of California is the first step to gaining legal recognition as a parent and being able to obtain a legally binding visitation schedule. In addition, this will allow the father to have an active role in making decisions regarding they’re child’s welfare.

Unwed Parents Who Live Together

What about an unmarried couple who lives and raises their child together? Often, in situations like this, both adults have an active parenting role. Nonetheless, the nonlegal parents don’t have any legal rights. They are unable to make important decisions as to where the child lives, medical treatment and how the child should be raised.

The best legal option for a non-biological parent is a second parent adoption which allows them to adopt their partner’s child giving them legal claim. In order for the court to grant a second parent adoption, both biological parents must approve it. If the court deems the biological parents to be unfit or aren’t in the child’s life a second parent, adoption can take place with just one parent’s approval.

Contact California Family Lawyer to Learn More About Visitation Rights for Unmarried Parents

The Law Offices of Rick D. Banks has over fifteen years of experience in navigating the California family law system. Let us use our legal expertise to help find the best solution for your family. Our team of experienced family attorneys works hard to help unmarried couples establish legally binding visitation rights. To learn more about visitation rights for unmarried parents, call us today.

Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan and the Divorce Mediation Process 

divorce mediation processDivorce does not have to be an all out all battle. Some may prefer the more peaceful divorce mediation process. Even celebrities often appear to be trying to taking the high road. This spring Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan announced they were divorcing. However, instead of the typical tabloid fodder, they surprised many people with a joint statement. In part, they stated:

“We have loving chosen to separate as a couple….There are no secrets or salacious events at the root of our decision–just two best-friends realizing it’s time to take some space and help each other live the most joyous, fulfilled lives possible. We are still a family and will always be loving dedicated parents…”

Mediation Might Be a Less Adversarial Method of Reaching a Resolution

Mediation is the chosen path for reaching divorce settlements in more than 50% of cases. It is a process that provides a less adversarial method for reaching a resolution. In mediation, the goal is to reach a settlement where both parties feel they have received a fair resolution.

In the divorce mediation process, the divorcing parties ask a neutral party called a mediator to assist in the process of helping the couples find common ground. This can include suggesting alternative solutions. The mediator does not represent either party directly. Mediation can cost significantly less than drawn out court proceedings. It can also be considerably faster.

When Mediation Works

In order for mediation to be effective both parties need to be willing to engage in the process. Both parties should be hopeful that resolution can be reached through the process. Otherwise, mediation will not be an effective tool to reaching agreement. The alternative is a drawn out court battle.

What to Expect With Divorce Mediation

So you and your spouse have agreed to try mediation. You both want to be as civil as possible while determining the division of assets, custody if you have children, and financial obligations such as child support or alimony. Knowing what to expect can make the mediation smoother.

Gathering Finance Documents

Much of the divorce process is about division of assets and figuring out how to separate finances. Before the initial mediation session,  you will want to gather financial information. Make a list of all the property you own, both together and separately. Also gather information about all bank accounts, retirement accounts, businesses documents, home or other real estate, and vehicles. Gather a list of all the debts you owe. Organize the information so that the mediator can easily review.

Keep Emotions in Check

Yes, divorce is bound to be emotional. Remember that mediation is really a negotiation. It is meant to be as collegial a process as it can be under the circumstances. You need to try and keep your emotions in check the best you can. Don’t yell or scream at your soon to be ex. Think of mediation as a business deal you have to get done. It is also highly likely you will not get everything you want. Try to look forward while still being forthright about what you need or want.

Attending Sessions

Mediation usually requires more than one session. So it is not unusual for a mediator to schedule multiple meetings. The first meeting might be where all the parties meet together and develop the facts. This might include information about joint finances and assets. You might also discuss non-financial matters or matters regarding children. The next step is to identify the key areas that are unresolved and identify possible solutions. This can require more than one mediation session where the mediator might have everyone meet as a large group and also meet with each party individually. Finally, the parties work towards a resolution and if possible finalization of the details of the divorce settlement.

Reaching Settlement

Once the parties reach a consensus, a divorce agreement is compiled. Once this agreement is reviewed by both parties and signed it needs to be reviewed by a judge. Even though the divorce settlement was reached through mediation, a final divorce decree needs to be reviewed  

Attorney Representation During the Divorce Mediation Process

Call the Law Office of Rick D. Banks today at 559-222-4891 for a consultation regarding the divorce mediation process. We can help you reach an agreement between you and your ex-spouse.

What Are the Effects of Divorce on Children?

effects of divorce on childrenEven though divorce is sometimes necessary, it has a direct effect on all family members. The effect on children can be especially long-lasting. Some children will carry the impact of this event into adulthood. As a parent, it’s important that you try to recognize the effects and be proactive in assisting your child or children through this life-altering transition. Below, Law Office of Rick D. Banks discusses both the short-term and long-term effects of divorce on children.

Short-Term Effects of Divorce on Children

High Stress

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology, it is not unusual for children to blame themselves for the divorce. Even young children can internalize these feelings, thinking they can get their parents back together. These feelings cause great amounts of stress. Stress can manifest itself differently in younger children than older children. It may lead to nightmares, lashing out, withdrawal, lead to other symptoms including negative thoughts about even simple things, and even fear.

Heightened Anxiety

Divorce can also bring uncertainty. Children aren’t sure what the future is going to look like and their routines might be altered. The uncertainty can make children nervous, anxious, and experience tension. This anxiety can carry over to school and activities. They may start to lose interest in their hobbies.


Changes to the family unit, many that often happen quickly, can cause great sadness for children. They are trying to find a new normal while they may mourn the loss of what was. Extreme sadness can even lead to depression.

Disillusion About the Situation

During a divorce children might be disillusioned about what is happening. It is helpful if they can connect with both parents to better understand each parent’s role in their “new” life.


Due to the changes divorce brings, younger children don’t always have the words to express their feelings. Older children may feel betrayed or not like some decisions being made about their future. This can cause mood swings or irritability. If it becomes extreme it can cause a child to withdraw.

Long-Term Effects of Divorce on Children

Substance Abuse

When children are stressed they may turn to substances such as alcohol or drugs to cope. This is especially true for teenagers. The drugs or alcohol might be viewed as an escape. However, if not caught early substance abuse can lead to long-term abuse, even addiction. Such abuse can also affect their health.

Social and Behavior Changes

Continued stress, sadness, and irritability (all short-term effects) can lead to longer lasting social and behavior changes. These feelings and the divorce, if left unresolved, causes a child to act out. In some instances these outbursts can even be violent. The longer these unresolved feelings persist the greater the social and behavior changes. These changes can have long-lasting effects on society and may even result in criminal behavior.

Changes in Socioeconomic Status

Divorce inevitably can lead to changes in cash flow, available resources, and even basic needs being met. Ideally both parents will provide for the children. However, that is not always the case. If one parent does not support the children changes in social standing and even changes in health from lack of resources can occur.

Effect on Education

Divorce can negatively impact children’s education. This may arise due to changes in routine or a lost interest in learning due to stress. Children can fall behind. A poor education foundation can have lifelong consequences, including reduced professional or occupational opportunities.

Longstanding Depression

Depression is often a short-term effect of divorce. However, for some children it becomes long-term and can even become a mental illness. Children suffering from depression may need professional help.

Long-Term Relationship Trouble

It is not uncommon for children to model behavior they learn from their parents. When children see their parents fight and marriage disintegrate, they may have trouble with their own future relationships. Children wonder if other relationships will also fall apart. These effects can follow well into adulthood.

Learn More About the Effects of Divorce on Children

Divorce is stressful for both adults and children. It can have a long-lasting effect on children. Your divorce should also consider what your children need. Contact the Law Office of Rick D. Banks today to discuss how you might lessen the effects of divorce on children.