I was once in the courtroom and saw a very reasonable judge make a very unreasonable ruling: “Until you get rid of your pit bulls, I am only granting you supervised visitation away from your dogs.” “Your honor,” he responded, “I have two other young children at home and these are the sweetest dogs that would not hurt a fly.” The judge simply responded, “I just don’t see why anyone needs to own pit bulls!”
Family Code, Section 3020 is a legislative mandate. The code section states that it is the public policy of the state of California to assure the health, safety and welfare of children shall be the court’s primary concern in determining the best interest of children. Further, the legislature also states that it is public policy to assure that children have frequent and continuing contact with both parents. The court has wide discretion in making custody and visitation orders that follow the fundamental mandates of Family code section 3020 and 3011
So is there a rule against owning pit bulls? Dobermans? Rottweiler? Mastiffs? Absolutely not! The rule is what is in the best interest of the children. That rule combined with the bad reputation of some dog breeds has caused panic in the judiciary. But “panic” and “reputation” cannot be substitutes for “independent judgment” which is what you are supposed to get when you go to court. The key of course is how to overcome this bias. How do you do that?
Unless you are ready to get rid of your dogs, or you are just fine with supervised visitation, this is one of those issues where you definitely want to hire a lawyer. The presentation of the evidence – in this case showing the judge that your dog(s) is friendly and not a stereotypical pit bull – is key to showing that your kids will not only be safe when they are in your care but that they will be enriched in their interaction with the family pets. The judicial officer may think they are making orders that are in the best interest of the children but actually wrong. The court of appeal frequently overturns orders such as these but that can be nearly impossible if you are not represented by an experienced family law attorney.
For that reasons contact us at the Edgar & Dow. We are experienced family law attorneys who have a dedicated practice to family law. This is all we do. If it’s not a pit bull, it may be a drunk uncle, or some other example where the court may overstep their bounds. Contact us for a free initial consultation. We have offices located in Riverside, Temecula, Anaheim, and Palm Desert.
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