In my career as a family law attorney I’ve had plenty of challenging moments, but being a working mom is the hardest job on the planet. I feel you, I’m here for you, and I understand. In California, it's a fact of life that both parents work to afford the high cost of living. If you’re a mother navigating a divorce, chances are you’re a working mom. Some of the working mothers we represent think they are penalized because they aren’t stay-at-home moms. They feel like they aren't on equal footing with respect to how their custody orders are going to turn out. The first thing we tell them is that family courts in California see both parents as having an equal financial obligation to provide for children of the marriage. As far as the law is concerned, that’s pretty much the end of story with respect to your gender and career status. If someone is telling you that the court is going to treat you differently due to your sexual biology, disregard that information.

Moms, Dads, and the Child’s Best Interest

Today moms and dads are treated as equally as ever in family court. It wasn’t always this way. As recently as 10 years ago, dads rarely had overnight visitation for children under the age of 2. Today, it is not uncommon for a nursing mom to be expected to pump breast milk ahead of their child’s time with the father. We have seen babies as young as three weeks old stay overnight alone with their dads! Point of story, the courts want both parents contributing as much as they can. If mom and dad both work, it means that both parents have to operate around work schedules to care for their children. And that is what the court is looking at for the most part—schedules and logistics.

Important Factors for Child Custody Orders

Inevitably, there are going to be biases that stem from how the facts of your case are portrayed by the opposing party. Having a good attorney on your side makes sure those things are pushed to the bottom of the list of considerations for the judge. Most custody orders boil down to a few factors:
  • What did the situation look like before the family separated? Status quo is huge in custody cases. The court doesn’t like to transition children away from what they are used to unless it’s an emergency or puts them in danger.
  • What do parents’ schedule and the children’s schedule look like? Parents must be able to exercise the custody order that you pursue. It should realistically fit your work schedule, and the logistics of the child’s school schedules and activities, and commute times.
  • Are parents cooperative in co-parenting? The court takes into consideration how likely parents are to provide, facilitate, and foster frequent and continuing contact to the children. If you demonstrate behavior that suggests otherwise it can affect your custody orders.

Create a Strategy for Your Unique Situation

At the end of the day, your custody order should be a tailored solution that fits your unique situation. This is so important to get right from the get-go, and is why we put in extra time and effort understanding the needs of our clients and their families. When our clients get custody orders that suit them, it sets them up for future success—and prevents them from wasting time and money and stressing out over nonsense down the road. At the end of the day, family courts have only one goal: making sure custody orders fit the best interest of the child involved. Let this be your mantra. Commit to best possible outcome for the children and family, and trust your attorney to make it happen for you. Meanwhile, take care of yourself and get the rest you need. We always recommend that moms talk to a family therapist one-on-one and with the children. It helps to arm yourself with skills to deal with the grief and anxiety that comes when a familial relationship ends. Set yourself up to parlay these circumstances into a personal growth experience. Together we will move through these changes and into a better future.  Kristen Holstrom