Preparing for a Child Custody Investigation

Being involved in your child’s life is not only important but irreplaceable, which is why fighting for the custody of your child is essential. In California family courts, the child’s well-being and overall happiness are the primary priority. As such, they will investigate the circumstances of each parent’s relationship with the child to make a custody decision based on what lies within the child’s best interests. Fortunately, there are ways to prepare for a child custody investigation to ensure you attain a favorable outcome that keeps you with your child.

What Constitutes a Child Custody Investigation in California?

Before learning what a custody investigation entails, it’s important to remember that it is not a process to find fault with a particular parent and not to take only one parent’s side in a custody dispute. It is intended to be a fair and just process to determine what is in the best interests of the child.

When looking at what a custody investigation in California consists of, we can break it down into a few easy-to-understand points:

  • The child custody process is initiated with the court, usually as part of a divorce or paternity case.
  • It is a non-biased assessment of both spouses and their family members.
  • Accounts and descriptions of past events will be analyzed, as well as present resources available, and the future needs of the family are also assessed.
  • Each parent’s weaknesses and strengths will be looked at and their parenting skills examined.
  • The family dynamics will be investigated, as well as the child’s development and needs.

Going through a child custody investigation can seem daunting to most. The process itself can be stressful, but you can cope better with the proceedings if you understand what happens during the investigation. Below we’ve given a brief idea of what you can expect from a child custody investigation in California.

  • If a court order is sent to you for a full custody investigation, you will need to answer this order within the timeframe legally set by the court and the law. There often will be a questionnaire that you will need to fully complete and send back.  [timelines may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction]
  • If the courts order a partial custody investigation, you will need to return your questionnaire perhaps within 24 hours. With partial investigations, a court order will only require specific information, and no other additional information can be collected or presented other than what is required by the court order.
  • During the investigation, you will have to consent to the investigator obtaining school records, medical reports, law enforcement, social security records, and all other relevant information.
  • After you have turned in your questionnaire, the investigator for your custody case will contact you to discuss the investigation.
  • The investigator could interview both parents, as well as other family members during the investigation. Additionally, the investigator could choose to meet with the children to understand their thoughts and feelings.
  • An investigator could also talk to teachers, caregivers, therapists, and social workers in some instances.

Depending on the custody case’s complexity and whether it is a partial or full investigation, it could take between 10 to 12 weeks. If other evaluations or different state evaluations are required, then the process could take longer to complete.

Seven Tips on How to Prepare for a California Child Custody Investigation

To help you understand how to prepare for a child custody investigation, we have provided some essential tips. Should you want a favorable outcome, we highly recommend following these while working with a child custody attorney.

1.    Spend Quality Time with Your Children

You should spend as much time with your children as possible during your custodial time. If you don’t attend appointments, school events, or constantly leave your child with babysitters or family members, you could be perceived as an uninterested parent.

2.    Discuss Everything with Your Attorney

You will need to be completely honest with your attorney during the custody investigation and disclose any past parenting mishaps. If you don’t do this, you could harm your case, as your attorney won’t be prepared and able to put the event into the right context. Refrain from lying throughout the investigation as it can also negatively affect your case.

3.    Take Detailed Notes Concerning Your Day-to-Day Lives with Your Children

In an investigation, it’s crucial to be able to demonstrate that you are a responsible parent. Keeping meticulous notes is one of the best ways to show that you are accountable and indicates that you can look after your child. Try to take notes on when each parent has custody, child support payments if applicable, and a day-to-day diary of what you do with your children.

4.    Examine Those Close to You

During the custody investigation, you need to make sure you are closely examining those close to you. Don’t allow anyone with a previous felony, drug users, those with sexual-related offenses, or other questionable characters that can be seen as dangerous near your child. You should also not allow any gatherings at your home with your child that can be considered harmful, inappropriate, or negligent.

5.    Avoid Conflict with Your Ex

Most people will understandably feel an array of emotions towards their ex. However, it would be in your best interests to never fight with your ex in front of your child or others ever, and especially when preparing for your custody investigation. Public outbursts and displays of volatile emotions can cast you in a negative light. Being viewed as a cooperative parent is important.

6.    You Should Not Exaggerate During the Case

During the investigation and court proceedings, you should refrain from providing exaggerated or false accounts about your ex. Your attorney will argue for why you genuinely deserve custody of your child and present reasons why your ex is perhaps not the best suited to full custody. It can be tempting to state perceived events that cast them negatively, but without evidence, witnesses, or proof, this can hurt your position.  Remember, it should always be about what’s best for your child, not you.

7.    Consider Who to Put on Your Witness List

This tip is crucial as it can significantly benefit the outcome of your case. You should work with your attorney to compile a witness list composed of reliable and trustworthy people who support your custody claim. If you can have witnesses such as your child’s teacher or priest, they could help make your case stronger. Preparing for a child custody investigation places quite a bit of pressure on the parents. We have only mentioned some of many possible tips that you can follow to prepare yourself for what lies ahead. If you follow these tips and make sure to converse with your California custody attorney regularly, you will have a better chance at achieving the outcome you seek.