Many times, I’ve met with new clients who want to modify existing custody and visitation orders because they do not have legal or physical custody of their child. I often ask them about their current involvement with their child. In particular, I ask them if they know what school their child attends, who their teacher is, who their closest friends are, how they are performing in school and the name of the child’s doctor. More often than not, they respond, “I don’t know”. When I ask them why they don’t know, I get a multitude of excuses.
I have learned that losing custody of a child, often becomes a chip on that parent’s shoulder and it prevents them from making efforts to stay informed about their child’s health, education and everyday life because they feel defeated and they even feel they don’t have a right to that information.
Little do they know that a non-custodial parent still has the same rights to access their child’s school and medical records even if they do not have custody of that child! This is a common misconception amongst non-custodial parents, schools and medical providers. The importance of a non-custodial parent’s access to their child’s health and education records is recognized by the family code.
What’s more, even if you don’t have primary custody of your child or children, a Family Court Judge would still expect you to care enough about your child to know these things, to still be involved as much as possible in your children’s lives.
Family Code Section 3025 states:
“Notwithstanding any other provision of law, access to records and information pertaining to a minor child, including but not limited to, medical, dental, and school records, shall not be denied to a parent because that parent is not the child’s custodial parent”.
If you are a parent who does not have custody of your child, it is important that your attorney asks the court to make orders pursuant to Family Code Section 3025 at the time of your hearing. I have done this many times, and absent the existence of specific orders preventing a client’s access to this information, such as a restraining order, I have been successful.
This request can be made at any stage of the case but it is very important to secure these orders at the initial hearing for custody and visitation because you want to stay informed and engaged in your child’s health and education during the pendency of the case. And, absent these orders, you may have a difficult time obtaining information from your child’s school, daycare providers, doctors or other third parties involved in your child’s life.
With these orders, a non-custodial parent can request that their child’s school provide them with copies of the child’s report cards, attendance, tardies, missed homework assignments, and much more. In addition, they can also request records from the child’s doctor and dentist.
If you are a non-custodial parent, staying informed and involved in these aspects of your child’s life can definitely help your case and increase your chances of being successful when you are seeking to modify custody and visitation orders. It can also help refute the other parent’s claim that they are the only parent involved in your child’s life when they oppose your request!