FORESTER PURCELL STOWELL attorneys offer their take on child custody with answers to the question:


How can I avoid missteps in child custody proceedings?


neil-foresterNeil Forester

The biggest mistake that I see people make is superimposing their own interpersonal conflict with the other parent onto issues relating to the parenting plan. I had a recent case where the mom (opposing party) did not like that she would have to pay my client a little bit of support, so she made allegations that my client abused the kids so he would lose custody (and she wouldn’t have to pay support). Because those allegations had to be put to the test by trial, the case then became an absolute nightmare of “he said-she said,” and the kids lost out on nearly a year of time with their dad. They were so traumatized that all three of the kids continue in counseling to repair the damage done by a parent who was thinking only of herself.



Michelle Stowellmichelle-stowell

It is important for parents to remember that their kids’ interests must be put ahead of their hostility towards the other parent. The mistake I see made time and time again is when parents believe their kids “have the right to know what’s really going on.”  Kids have a right to not be placed in the middle of a conflict. Just because you’re mad at your spouse for viewing pornography or being insensitive, doesn’t mean that your children need to know the details of these adult issues. Kids want to love both parents. Putting them in the middle will likely backfire against a parent who put them there because that is the parent who is forcing them to pick a side.


matthew-purcellMatt Purcell

Parents – and attorneys for parents  – need to actually focus on the kids. Far too often in court and outside of it I hear parents arguing about making the other side “follow the order,” when the egregious violation has had little to no impact on the children or the complaining parent. “She was fifteen minutes late to the exchange three times last month so she just shouldn’t have custody,” is not a child-centered argument, even though it involves the exchanges. Parents and those counseling them need to truly focus on what has an impact on the children. Arguing over petty issues not only increases the costs of a case, but also increases the conflict, which is almost always a NEGATIVE impact on the kids.


Jenny Bain 220 x 220 Website 386Jenny Bain

I see many parents fail to take court orders seriously. As always, knowing your judge is key. Different judges have different, specific ideals about parental communication or parenting. If a Judge feels that a party isn’t following a court order, no matter how innocuous, it could have considerable repercussions. In one instance, the court ordered my client to take a drug test to prove that she was not using drugs, as alleged by the other side. Upon returning to court to review the test results, my client gave numerous reasons as to why she didn’t have time to take the test. The Judge gave sole custody to the other side immediately at the hearing – not because there was evidence that she was on drugs (there wasn’t), but because the court felt there needed to be repercussions for not following a court order. No matter how silly, needless, or ridiculous court orders might seem to a parent, it is best to comply with all orders and recommendations while a Judge has your case under a microscope.


Based in Folsom, California, Forester Purcell Stowell PC can be reached at or 916 293 4000. This information is general in nature and should not be construed as legal advice.

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