Virtually every part a family court case is governed by procedural rules. These local laws and practices must be adhered to or else a party could forfeit the right to appropriate relief. In cases involving children, the outcome of the matter could drastically impact the family dynamic and financial lifestyle for the near future. Therefore, in child custody cases in particular, parents may want to take extra care to ensure that their rights are heard and that the ultimate outcome serves the best interests of the children. One of the most effective ways to do this is to consult with an experienced family law attorney who is well versed in the local court rules and procedures.
In a recent California court of appeals case, a father sought to appeal a modification of a child custody and support order. Unfortunately for him, the court affirmed the lower court’s decision to award the modification because the father failed to provide an adequate record from which the court could properly evaluate whether there was error in the earlier judgment. Here, in November 2011, the mother filed a motion to modify the child custody and support order that was part of the original dissolution proceeding, claiming that her ex-husband did not spend nearly as much time with their two kids as the existing order anticipated.
The father opposed the motion. In January 2013, the court entered an order with two separate findings: 1) from March 2012 to August 2012, the children spent 22% of the time with their father (and calculated support accordingly), and 2) from September 2012 going forward, the court found that the children spent equal time with both parents. The father argued that the first finding was improper because during that time period he was the caretaker for his ailing mother and spent most of his time with her.
On appeal, the court noted that the appellate record was less than adequate: there were 18 documents (in most cases, they were “portions” of documents), few of the captions were included, his order to show cause was not in the record, there was no copy of his opposition, and there were no transcripts of the family court proceedings. California law requires that any party, who is challenging a judgment, must show “reversible error” by an adequate record. The order or judgment of the lower court is presumed to be correct. According to court rule, the appellant must include: 1) all of the documents filed with the trial court, 2) all introduced exhibits that are necessary for proper consideration of the issues, and 3) a transcript of any relevant oral proceeding.
The court found that the record failed to satisfy these rules and was completely inadequate to permit an evaluation of the lower court’s discretion. Thus, the court upheld the decision modifying the child custody and support order. While this is an unpublished opinion, and parties may not cite or rely on the decision, the underlying reasoning and holding could inform later cases arising under similar facts. In order to be certain that you are filing the correct documents in a child custody and support matter, it is critical that you contact a local family law attorney with a great deal of experience representing families in and around San Diego.
If you are a parent with questions about child custody matters, you are encouraged to contact Doppelt & Forney. Mr. Doppelt is an experienced family law attorney and has been representing parents involved in child custody disputes for more than 20 years. Doppelt & Forney serves clients throughout Southern California, including San Diego, Encinitas, La Jolla, and Chula Vista. For a free consultation, contact Doppelt & Forney through our website, or give us a call toll-free at (800) ROY IS IT (769-4748).
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