If you don’t like a ruling from a trial court in a divorce case, you have the right to appeal. The problem, however, is that appeals courts take a fairly deferential stance in those cases. As the Fourth District Court of Appeals recently explained, appeals courts review trial judge decisions for an “abuse of discretion.” In other words, a judge must generally have abused the fairly broad discretion he or she is afforded in order for a decision to be overturned. That makes it vital that a person considering a divorce seek the advice and counsel of an experienced attorney as soon as possible in the process in order to put a strong case before a trial judge.
Husband and Wife were married for some nine years and had two children before separating in 2009. The couple agreed to share joint legal and physical custody of the kids and split expenses. A court eventually issued a divorce judgment encompassing that agreement. That set off what appeared to be a series of disputes between the former spouses about how to parent the kids.
Additional litigation ensued, and Wife eventually asked for greater visitation rights, child support, and spousal support. In response, Husband asked a court to give him sole physical custody of the children. He argued that Wife wasn’t using all of her visitation time with the kids and said she had violated the terms of the divorce judgment by proposing to change their daughter’s therapist without consulting him. He also said that the switch to full custody would be in the children’s best interests. The trial court disagreed and ordered the spouses to continue with joint custody. It also made Husband’s home the primary physical residence for the kids.
Affirming the decision on appeal, the Fourth District rejected Husband’s claim that the trial judge abused his discretion in denying Husband’s request for sole custody. The appeals court first explained that it gives a lot of deference to a trial court decision, using the “abuse of discretion” standard. “Generally, a trial court abuses its discretion if there is no reasonable basis on which the court could conclude its decision advanced the best interests of the child,” the Court said. “Under this test, we must uphold the trial court ruling if it is correct on any basis, regardless of whether such basis was actually invoked.”
In this case, the Fourth District said the trial judge acted within his discretion by ordering the former spouses to share custody. The appeals court also said the trial judge properly rejected Husband’s argument that Wife didn’t consult with Husband about the therapist decision and found evidence showing that she’d taken advantage of all of her visitation time.
Child custody and support are just some of the issues that can come up when spouses decide to divorce. If you’re considering a divorce or are grappling with child support and other issues in California, contact San Jose divorce attorney John S. Yohanan. With more than 30 years of experience, Mr. Yohanan is an accomplished family law attorney who has helped a number of clients resolve a wide variety of marital disputes. Call our office at (408) 297-0700 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.
Related blog posts: