May 30, 2014 By Paul Wallin
Robin Williams – star of Mrs. Doubtfire

Robin Williams’ 1993 comedy Mrs. Doubtfire was one of the biggest films of his career. The move is still shown on TV to this day and a sequel was recently announced. William’s humorous, yet emotional portrayal of an out of work actor moonlighting as an elderly British nanny to spend more time with his children won rave reviews and sympathy from movie goers.

In real life, the actions of Williams’ character would not be tolerated in a family law court, no matter how honest his intentions. It is also important to note that since the film was released over 20 years ago, there have been changes to California’s child custody lawsthat may provide alternatives to Williams’ zany antics. The following are some solutions that an experienced family law attorney could provide as alternatives to the events in Mrs. Doubtfire.

1. Factors other than employment and residence in a child custody case.

At the beginning of the film, Daniel Hillard (Williams) and his wife Miranda divorce. At their first child custody hearing, the judge grants Miranda full custody of their three children, citing Daniel’s unemployment and lack of suitable residence (he lives in a small, messy apartment).

In the state of California, employment and residence are two factors family law courts consider when deciding child custody matters. Though employment and residence are important, they are not the only factors a judge considers. Family court judges make their decisions in the best interest of the child, and understand that circumstances vary with each case. The judge will also consider:

  • The age of your child
  • The health, safety, and welfare of your child
  • The nature and amount of contact your child has with both parents
  • You and the other parent’s ability to care for your child
  • The duration and adequacy of your child’s living arrangements
  • The emotional relationship between you and your child, as well as between your child and the other parent

2. Alternatives to the “every other weekend” child custody arrangement.

By the time Hillard is well into his Mrs. Doubtfire persona, there have been significant improvements in his life. He has a better relationship with his children, gets a job at a local TV station, and makes improvements to his apartment. However, he is stuck in his “every other weekend” child custody arrangement with his wife. This arrangement is so common in child custody disputes people may not realize that there are other alternatives.

Hillard could have petitioned a family law court to revise the child custody agreement with his wife and ask for a joint (50/50) custody based on his new job and living arrangements. There are six different ways parents can split child custody evenly, from every other week to every few days to every other day.

3. Input from the Hillards’ children in family court.

In the film, a family court judge makes all of the decisions involving child custody. However, in the state of California, a judge can not only hear testimony from both parents before making a child custody decision, but also testimony from the children themselves under certain circumstances.

Under California Family Code Section 3042, a child 14 years of age or older has the right to testify in a custody hearing as long as the judge does not rule that doing so would be contrary to the child’s best interest. Though a child’s preference does not decide a case (the judge ultimately does), Hillards’ eldest two children should have been able to testify in court to support their father or voice preference to live with him.

Children under the age of 14 may testify if the court determines that it would be in the best interest of a child. If a child under the age of 14 cannot testify in court, a minor’s counsel, mediator, special evaluator or investigator can express the child’s preferences on behalf of the child. This provision would allow the Hillards’ youngest child to voice her preference.

Call Wallin & Klarich Today

If you or a loved one is involved in a child custody dispute, it is critical that you speak to an experienced family law attorney. At Wallin & Klarich, our attorneys have over 30 years of experience in successfully resolving child custody disputes in and out of the courtroom. Our attorneys will fight to get you the best possible outcome in your case.

With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Tustin, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich Southern California child custody attorney near you no matter where you work or live.

Call us today at (888) 749-7428 for a free phone consultation. We will be there when you call.

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