Father’s Custodial Rights… We’ve Come a Long Way

California law declares “that it is the public policy of this state to assure that children have frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage, or ended their relationship, and to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities of child rearing in order to effect this policy, except where the contact would not be in the best interest of the child…” (i.e., when the child’s health, safety, or welfare is in danger). California Family Code §3020(b). Based on this public policy, it is becoming more and more common for parents to share joint physical custody of their children.

This wasn’t always the case though. Just ask James Cook, a father who sought joint custody of his son in 1974 and was told by the judge that such a request was preposterous and that he didn’t have permission to do it. In response, James Cook organized the Joint Custody Association and in 1979 pushed through the California legislature the first law encouraging joint custody. California law now specifically provides that the court shall not prefer one parent over the other as custodian of a child because of that parent’s sex.

Of course, joint custody is not appropriate in all cases. The issue all comes down to a careful review of the child’s best interests.

Some parents have difficulty accepting the fact that it may be in their child’s best interest to have equal time with both parents. Given that in many cases, thousands of dollars are spent litigating this issue, it is worth noting that children may benefit when fathers have joint custody. For example, according to the National Fatherhood Initiative, US Bureau of Census, FBI, “Father deprivation is a more reliable predictor of criminal activity than race, environment or poverty. Father deprived children are, among other things, twice as likely to quit school, 11 times more likely to be violent, and 90% of runaways.

Joint custody may or may not be in your child’s best interest, but given that the trend in the courts is shifting to involving both parents in the care of children, it may be beneficial to put aside your differences with the other parent and work together to determine what is in the best interests of your children.

At Mello & Pickering, LLP, we handle countless custody cases and can answer any questions you may have. Call us for a free consultation or to set up an in person meeting at (408) 288-7800.

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