Divorce Mediator Gerald Maggio Analyzes California’s Failing Grade in Child Custody
Orange County, CA (Law Firm Newswire)
January 22, 2015
The National Parents Organization (NPO) gave California a “D” in a recently released report card on the state of shared parenting in child custody arrangements across the United States.
According to Orange County divorce mediator Gerald Maggio, the grade is not a reflection on California’s parents, but on California’s divorce courts.
“This report looks at legal statutes and judicial practices in each state to determine how favorable the court system is to shared parenting in child custody cases,” said Maggio of California Divorce Mediators. “In California courts, child custody decisions can be a crapshoot, and that is what the low grade in the report reflects.”
NPO reports that in California, legal statutes guiding custody decisions are weak. Family court judges have near-total discretion when it comes to ordering child custody arrangements. The only factor that a California judge must consider is which parent seems more likely to allow the child to have some contact with the other parent. Choosing that parent is entirely up to the judge.
Most California family courts have an enormous backlog of cases, which means that judges cannot spend a significant amount of time getting to understand the dynamics of each case. Maggio says that he has seen the process end in heartbreak for many families.
“Often, parents who go in fighting each other on custody come out with an arrangement that is really not suited for the child or either parent,” remarked Maggio. “Many studies have shown that when compared to parent-created arrangements, judge-ordered custody arrangements are less likely to be followed and more likely to cause conflict. The tension and instability are ultimately negative for the child.”
Because of the strife that judge-ordered custody arrangements can cause, California requires all parents in a custody dispute to try mediation first. Parents may choose a private mediator or use a mediator supplied by the court. Mediated agreements put the control and the responsibility for a parenting plan in the parents’ hands. Judges still have to sign off on these agreements, but they are less likely to intervene.
“The trick is to select a good mediator,” said Maggio. “Otherwise, mediation can break down, and then families end up back in court under the orders of a judge.”