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What are family court's priorities?

htd_sh's picture

Hi there, newbie here!

I have no experience with the court system- other than being the child of a divorce and it was pretty clean cut. The last time DH and BM went to court, I was not involved yet. Background: Children are young elementary age and there are 2 of them involved. DH doesn't have any CO visitation, BM has sole custody and CS is paid unofficially (there is no CS court order) with only bank records to show it is being paid. (I hate this, refer to my other posts. But it is what they agreed to do for current timing and I cannot force changes in my role.) 

So anyways, I want your experiences on "what are the court's priorities?' In my opinion, both biological parents are capable for caring for the children. Obviously, I think my husband and I are capable of caring for the children. I think BM is capable of caring for the children, I think her situation is very ugly, but I don't think the children's welfare is in jeopardy- not right now at least. (I think it was in the past, but unfortunately we have nothing to show that-- just what BM told DH in a verbal discussion that obviously got heated when DH heard these things that were occurring in the house.)

Do the courts really prioritize the child(ren) seeing BOTH of their biological parents?

I have heard they sometimes favor the custodial parent, but does that mean giving the NCP no visitation at all?

What do they look for in "a safer household" other than basics like food, water, shelter?

Do they factor income in at all when it comes to visitation/custody?

Any experiences, opinions, and suggestions are very welcomed!

dysfunctionally_blended's picture

"The last time DH and BM went to court, I was not involved yet."

Why isn't there a CO or CS order then?

As for your question family court seems to vary based on geographical area. Some states are very pro mom and others are pro shared, equal custody.

If your DH went to court to gain custody and received none I would think there would have been a very valid reason for that. 

htd_sh's picture

The CS CO was terminated by BM and DH (long story).

DH has not went back to court to gain custody/visitation and when they went originally, DH could not afford an attorney and was bullied by BM. (the bullying is another long story)

STaround's picture

Every state, and even within states, counties can be different.  If he cannot afford a lawyer, frequently he can speak to a court clerk to get some background.  Where I live, family court is generally closed, so you cannot listen to how others go.  Unless he has done something really bad, he will get at least every other weekend and a night weekdays.  That would be the minimum.  Some places 50/50 is the default.  Even if he only gets every other weekend to start, he can frequently work his way up from there.     Good luck. 

htd_sh's picture

Thank you for your input!

Every other weekend and a night during the week would be 100% better than our current situation!

tog redux's picture

In theory, they want to make sure the kid is supported by both parents and has a relationship with both parents. In theory.

In practice, parents who are good at lying and good at manipulating the kids to support "their side", can be very effective at cutting out the other parent or using the child as a weapon.  Family Court has little understanding of Parental Alienation, and how "listening to what the child wants" can be manipulated to the child's disadvantage by a toxic parent.

Few courts will cut off all visitation; however, few courts will enforce their own orders, too. So a CP can withhold the child very successfully and most police agencies won't enforce it, and few judges will do anything about it.

Family Court needs better awareness of High Conflict people and how they use the courts and their own kids to their advantage.  So if your DH goes back to court, he will likely get a visitation order and a support order.  He will for sure pay the support, but she will likely violate the visitation order freely and get away with it.

htd_sh's picture

Thank you so much for your honest reply. Your last statement is exactly what I anticipate to be honest. Also, if the visitation order is violated.. who has the money to continue to go back to court? Every. Single. Time. 

STaround's picture

People go "pro-se" -- i.e., no attorney.  The problem is that the court is during the day, and you really have to give up a full day of work to go.  

what you have to get is proof that other parent refused to hand over kid.  Talk to court clerk about what proof is.  Eventually they may mandate exchange at police station, etc.   Good luck.  Every kid deserves to see both parents (absent abuse of course)

tog redux's picture

Even if you go pro se, it takes a lot for a parent to get in trouble for withholding visitation. And if she gets the kid to become afraid of his father or angry at him and refuse to go, she looks like the innocent victim who is trying to get the child victim to visit his horrible other parent.

Your husband is wise to fear family court, men often get the shaft there. But being totally at BM's whims stinks too.

htd_sh's picture

so happy you said that about getting the kid angry and refusing to go!!! becaaaaauuse... that is now happening.

Dont want to beat a dead horse because ive poured my life on this poor poor website, but i'm going to pick up my bat and beat it again anyways

DH received a call saying the 7 year old does not want to visit our house anymore because "DH and stepmom always fight and BM doesn't like stepmom" He obviously used "mommy", "daddy", and my name, but i don't want to share my name. This is what DH told me. I am unsure if DH talked to SS or BM directly, i plan to ask tonight when we reconvene to discuss issues. However, what i do know is that my skids (both of them actually) are extremely immature for their ages, therefore i have a hard time believing SS would formulate his own opinion of not wanting to visit, especially given BM's controlling manipulative behavior (those are learned behaviors). I do feel it was prompted by BM because this was the day after BM blew up at DH for defending me to BM when the skid said to me "my mommy said you wont give her money so she can buy me things"... ohhhhh its been dramatic


tog redux's picture

My SS stopped visiting (and speaking to DH) at age 15.  DH was already around 50K spent on attorneys and so he fought no further after that.  SS would always lie about DH and it just was unwinnable.

Jcksjj's picture

I was told the very top factor they consider is historically which parent has been the primary caregiver. They arent going to cut off visitation. Even with my sons dad having a criminal history and no place of his own to live they gave him every other weekend at his friends house where he was staying. He ended up getting only supervised visitation after ending up in prison for another violent felony. The only person I know if who actually lost parental rights altogether shook and nearly killed his baby. 

Like Tog said above the one issue is that to get any enforcement at all for the other parent breaking it you have to go back to court since it's a civil matter.

Rags's picture

IMHO, family law courts are structured for an ideal world where the people who are in them are all there with honorable intent and to protect the best interests of the kids.  Judges are all top legal talent, lawyers are all of character and highly capable, etc, etc,etc....

Reality in my experience is far different.  Many on one side or the other of the blended family dynamic are manipulative, toxic, of little character and have zero interest in what is actually best for the kids.

And of course using the courts can be prohibitively expensive.   

There are some core requirements for maximizing one's success in family court. IMHO

1. Document, document, document. 

2. Know the CO if there is one, State regulations and any supplemental county rules for the locale where your case is resident. Know them backwards, forwards, upside down and inside out.

3. Get the best counsel that you can afford.

4. Know all of the dirt, history, etc, etc, etc... on the opposition, have it documented, and ready to play in your deck when you get to court.  Better yet, be ready to smack them with it before you go to court as it can help force their compliance with your intent without having to go to court. You may not need it. But is is better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

5. Know that you can initiate just about any action related to  your blended family case pro se.  You do not have to have an attorney.  You can present action, represent yourself and keep as much in court as you want in court as frequently as  you want it to be in court.

When the other party violates the CO, particularly in withholding the kids from visitation with their other parent, a contempt motion can be filed very quickly and no attorney is needed. Review of CS does not require an attorney.  Changes to the CO do not require an attorney. 

We used a blended model in our strategy for controlling my SS's toxic manipulative SpermClan.  We went to court with representation initially, continually top graded our legal counsel, used our attorney as counsel to help us prepare for court when we were representing ourselves, and when we could not find a particular rule, regulation, or case law we had our attorney's office find it for us.

The sole focus was to protect my SS's best interests and to minimize the lies and manipulations of his SpermClan.

Initially they tried for full custody.  We offered them 9 weeks of visitation per year.  We did not live in the state where the CO was issued. BioDad did.  They refused the 9 weeks and changed their offer from full custody to 26 weeks of visitation. We refused and offered them 9 weeks.  They countered with 15 weeks.  We refused and offered 9 weeks.  They rejected that offer late at night a few hours before we went to court to meet their custody suit. We matched their attempt at full custody with my bride retains the full physical and legal custody she already had, they get ZERO visitation, and CS increases from the $110/mo originally ordered to the maximum CS for his income level which should have been ~$300/mo of CS at that  time.

9+ hours later the Judge issued his ruling.  My wife retained full physical and legal custody, long distance visitation was set at 7wks per year and CS went up $23/mo to $133.00

As we were walking out of court our attorney told us that they would accept our offer of 9wks of visitation per year. My wife laughed in his face. She was done, she was pissed and she was not going to tolerate their manipulative crap any longer.  They had zero to do with SS before they heard through the small town grapevine that DW was dating someone. That is when SpermGrandHag hired an attorney, filed for full custody for her idiot son (without telling him she was doing it, and forged his name on the paperwork filing the suit.

My wife was a single teen mom full time college student with zero money. She took out a supplemental school loan to get an attorney and went to war with the SpermClan.  They held the significant resource advantage since the SpermGrandParents were paying the SpermIdiot's CS on my Skid and paying for his lawyer.  They held that advantage until I joined the party.  My wife and I married 10 days before her court date. The SpermClan attorney had iced her on three previous occasions after she flew in for court dates that they rescheduled at the last minute.  They tried it the morning of our initial court date too. Our attorney seasoned the Judge with the facts of their repeated bate and switch of the court dates and the Judge held the date.  He was pissed because he wanted to postpone our hearing because he was getting a murder case if he could reschedule. 

Anyway, my wife went in with a file box of records.  The SpermIdiot was sitting there with nothing, his lawyer was shocked at how prepared my 18yo bride was and she and her attorney laid waste to them.

That is pretty much how it played out for the next 16 years.  Whether we had an attorney or not and whether they had one or not.  That is the only time we ever used an attorney in court. But we hired a killer shark attorney after that round because our attorney was more interested in a group hug and preserving her local relationships than representing us as we demanded.

Usually all it took thereafter was for our Shark to send them or their attorney of the month a letter outlining clearly what the consequences would be if they did not stop whatever crap they were pulling.  His letter would arrive, they would shut up and go away.

When we did go back to court we prepared, we presented out case, they whined and cried, we won... for the most part.

The problem with the whole process IMHO is that it is just skeevie.  I have always left court feeling like I needed to run naked through a high pressure care wash to get the skeeve off of my flesh.  Everyone from the opposition to the Judge made my skin crawl.

Courts are far from an ideal world.  There is usually one parent or the other who is superior.  Whether they are of superior character, financial security, stability, sanity, etc..... preferably all of the above.  Courts opperate from the premise that it is in the best interests of a kid to have a relationship with both of their parents.  While the premise works in an ideal world, we do not live in an ideal world.  The best interests of a child is to be in a stable, secure, clean, heated, cooled, food stocked home with strong parental standards of performance and behavior.  The CP should be the parent best able to provide those things. Visitation should be balanced against how close the second best parent comes to that standard.  The closer the they come, the more visitation they should have and the more the child whould benefit from time with them.

But... as I said. Not an ideal world.

Rags's picture

As for your questions.

The general premise that family courts operate under is that it is in the best interests of the kids to have a relationship with both of their parents.

1.  Do the courts really prioritize the child(ren) seeing BOTH of their biological parents?

Generally yes. The CO will provide for time with each parent though not necessarily equal time.  That is if both parents are capable of providing a basically safe environment and care for the kids.  If they can't, the court may require supervised visitation in a safe place.

2. I have heard they sometimes favor the custodial parent, but does that mean giving the NCP no visitation at all?

Generally the CP will have the advantage of more time with the child. The CP, as the title indicates, has custody of the child.  Joint Physical and Legal Custody is a possibility that the court can consider.  Generally one parent or the other will be designated as the "Custodial" parent even in a ruling of joint physical and legal custody.  The other parent is the NCP.  The visitation schedule dictates who has what time with the kid(s).  The NCP usually has somewhat less time with the kids and that can include ZERO time.  Though those situations are rare. 

3. What do they look for in "a safer household" other than basics like food, water, shelter?

They may not look at all.  Some States and courts demand a CPS assessment of the homes in question.  Some don't and will only order an assessment if there is a compelling reason.   We never had to go through that ourselves. 

4. Do they factor income in at all when it comes to visitation/custody?

Not usually for custody.  Though they do for calculating Child Support.  There are any number of examples where the NCP is far and beyond the higher earner yet the CP has custody.

The general premise that family courts operate under is that it is in the best interests of the kids to have a relationship with both of their parents.

All in my legal layman's experience and opinion of course.

Goodluck's picture

You ask, What are Family Courts priorities?

Depends on the  the situation presented.

To keep it simple;

Custody change from parent 1, *usually mom* TO bio parent 2 "usually dad",  will require a custodial  parent *mom*  to be facing some rather serious felony charges.

What that means is parent was arrested, the DA has already presented evidence that is gonna stick...not oh Ms. Jones uses drugs, or ms. jones does this or that..or Ms. Jones wont let my fiancee see his kids.

Overall biggest problem is over zelous new girlfriends or new wives who are on their husbands backs to fight for full custody. Sometimes you read it on here.

Going back into court with new wifie DOES NOT WORK with folders and binders filled with "documentation"...

There is NO definition on the books for Best Interest of a child. NONE zippo, nun-ya.

By the way:

*dss has  reaonsable low bar guidlines. Electric, safe heat source, working indoor plumbing unless cultural or over all community reflects otherwise.  Clothing..not necessary clothing that fits perfectly but just clothing.  Food in fridge..doesnt have to be of nutritional value. Transportation needs being met,,,doesnt matter how or by whom. Fire arms must be secured.**

So as you can see with low bar cps guidlines, family court bar is much of the same.

My expereience over 20 years of this....LOTS of drama presented in court but rarely makes a difference if ever.

Lastly courts are not prepared for mental health issues regarding Pathogenic Parenting aka PAS