Child Custody: Three Problem Areas to Avoid  The 10 Most Common DIY Divorce Mistakes & How to Avoid Them

Child Custody: Three Problem Areas to Avoid The 10 Most Common DIY Divorce Mistakes & How to Avoid Them


It can be important to get a custody plan in place before moving out of the family home.[1] Otherwise, if a custody battle arises after moving-out, the party remaining in the family home may accuse the moved-out party of abandoning the children.  If the parties do not agree on custody and visitation orders, the Court is likely to maintain the status quo, rather than switch the custody situation.  Thus, a parent who moves out of the family home without having a custody plan in place may face an uphill battle for visitation rights.

Couples doing their own divorce are often unaware that Mediation is available through the Courthouse, at no charge, regarding custody and visitation issues.  This can be a big help in resolving custody and visitation issues effectively and affordably.[2]

Custody & Visitation agreements, done without the help of attorneys or a mediator, often are too poorly-worded to enforce.  When disagreements arise, agreements must be specific enough to enforce; otherwise they are useless.  For example, an agreement stating that Husband will have the children on “weekends” may work well until there is disagreement as to when the “weekend” begins; being specific, such as “Fridays at 6:00 PM to Sundays at 6:00 PM,” would have prevented this disagreement.  Also, a “per mutual agreement of the parties” visitation schedule can be attractively flexible, but it may become frustratingly vague and unenforceable if and when a disagreement arises.

3 Simple Steps to Avoid these Mistakes:


  • Have a custody/visitation agreement in place before moving-out.
  • Enlist the help of an attorney or Courthouse Mediator.
  • Make sure the agreement is specific and well-defined enough to enforce.


By the way, pets are not humans.  You can write “custody/visitation” terms regarding pets into an agreement between the parties.  However, the law does not recognize pets the same as human children.  Courthouse Mediators are not obligated to help resolve pet issues.

The Law Office of Andrew J. McCall represents Family Law litigants in Contra Costa & Solano Counties, so, if you know someone who has been trying to do his/her own divorce and is having problems, have him/her contact us to discuss representation or consultation or just help with forms.

[1] If the situation involves domestic violence, safety concerns may take priority over getting custody orders.  Use common sense.

[2] A recent California Supreme Court case (Marriage of Davis, July 2015) held that couples are not “Separated” until they actually reside in separate residences.  This may complicate qualifying for Court-Sponsored Mediation, until the legislature resolves this situation.