Protecting Parental Rights for Child Custody
Certified Child Custody Specialists in Southern California
San Diego Child Custody Lawyers
Certified Child Custody Specialists in San Diego
Child custody disputes and arguments can be the most difficult situations, which can be expensive and result in everyone involved being affected in a negative way. To reduce these challenging disputes, family law courts in California have implemented a mandatory mediation system before parents can dispute their child custody matter before the court. During the process of mediation, the courts require parents seeking divorce to focus the most important issue: what is in the best for of the child or children involved.
Should a dispute still exist after the mediation process, the family law court will listen and decide the orders they believe are in the children’s best interest after hearing the evidence and reading the pleadings.
“Oh my goodness! Holstrom, Block & Parke exceeded my expectations of a law firm. I am a single mom who was very overwhelmed with the process of child custody and child support. I was operating without legal representation and as a result, I was constantly being taken advantage of. From the moment I hired Holstrom, Block & Parke my mind was put at ease and I was able to exhale for the first time in years. Upon my first call, Attorney Dayn Holstrom, spoke with me and laid everything out in a very practical and no nonsense way. Dayn Holstrom is extremely knowledgeable and sees beyond the emotions to get down to the real issues on the table. His paralegal, Leigh, is top notch and has a way of calming any nerves by having genuine conversations with me. This is the peace of mind that I needed. This office is fair, assertive, organized, passionate, aggressive, timely and takes excellent care of their clients. I highly recommend this firm.”
Custody has two components:
Legal custody: Decisions involving the child’s health, safety, and welfare, including, but not limited to doctors, schools, daycare, and religion are a few of the decisions that parents make for their children. Joint legal custody means the parents consult with and make those major decisions for their child together whereas sole legal custody means one parent can make those decisions unilaterally. It is very typical for parents to share joint legal custody, but not joint physical custody.
Physical custody: A determination on where the child live, with whom, and when is a determination of physical custody – a visitation schedule. The court determines where the children should reside, with which parent, and for what periods of time. True joint physical custody is when the children live with one parent as much as the other parent and it is fairly typical for the court to consider a slightly unequal timeshare as joint physical custody.
Common Custody Arrangements
Custody (physical and legal) is decided by the family law court or can be agreed upon in mediation. To decide what custody arrangement is best, we welcome you to talk with one of our experienced child custody attorneys in San Diego.
There are many types of child custody arrangements. These can include:
Sole custody, or Sole physical and legal custody of a child, is ordered if there is some history or finding of abuse or neglect. In this scenario, only one parent is assigned to make decisions over the child’s health, safety, and welfare as well as living exclusively or primarily with that same parent. The other parent is designated as the non-custodial parent, which can include visitation rights, depending on the circumstances of the specific case.
Joint custody, or what is called shared custody is when parents share physical and legal custody. Joint custody requires major decision-making about the child or children be done in consultation with one another as well as the physical sharing of the children on an equal basis. In this scenario, family law attorneys will often times take a creative approach to meet the divergent needs of each family to ensure there is a long-standing order that will work with a child’s changing needs.
Split custody is when the parents each takes custody of a different child. This is a rare scenario that requires a compelling justification to order when there is more than one child and the children’s best interests are not met by living together. An example of this would be when the age difference of the children is substantial and has caused emotional strife with one parent or another. This is usually not a permanent solution and one that will be modified once the child and parents can be involved in therapy.
“Bird Nesting”, also known as Bird’s Nest Custody is a unique situation where the parents take turns living in the same home where the children reside and parents work around the kids instead of the other way around. This is very different from the scenario where children change homes on assigned schedules.
How custody is determined during the divorce process
Many times it is relatively easy for parents to agree on short term or “temporary custody” of the children. However, as the divorce process progresses, custody issues can become increasingly difficult and require the use of a skilled divorce lawyer to help achieve a fair child custody agreement or order.
Child Custody cases are resolved during the divorce process in many ways:
During a divorce case, but prior to a final Judgment, a temporary hearing in a child custody case occurs when a judge hears, reviews and grants a motion on a specific matter or request. Divorce proceedings can take months if not years to complete, and a short term solution is needed. If the custody arrangement is contested, the result of such a hearing is called a temporary custody order. Typically, a temporary custody order is utilized to provide the least disruption to the children, but also ensure frequent and continuing contact with both parents. Temporary custody should not have an impact or bearing on the final permanent child custody agreement, but having a skilled family law attorney will help bridge any difference between a temporary custody order and why you desire in a more permanent custody order.
Mandatory mediation is through the courts when both parents work with a neutral court-appointed mediator to help find common ground on the issue of custody and visitation only before going before the court. The mediator listen to the parties, discuss with them potential resolutions and will then draft a report and recommended order for the Judge to review prior to the hearing. Although only the parents are present at mediation in this regard, both parents can still be represented by separate family law attorneys to help prepare them for mediation, protect their rights and to seek what is in the best interest of the children.
If the issues involving custody are complex or highly contested, the court may demand a custody evaluation to be conducted. During this process a court-appointed mental health professional, such as a social worker or psychologist performs a child custody evaluation, gathers information, and reports their professional opinion to the court, with recommendations for assignment of custody rights. This can be a long and expensive process, performing psychological testing, interviews with the parents, children, teachers and others.
California family law courts conduct trials to resolve contested child custody cases based on the best interests of the child or children. Deciding what is in the “best interest” of the child or children can include evaluating many factors such as needs of the child, parent bond/connection and attachment, age, who the primary caretaker is, as well as physical and mental health of each parent. The courts will also review if there is any past or present domestic violence issues before a permanent child custody order is reached.
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What are my visitation rights as a parent?
Visitation issues rank among the most contentious during a divorce that involves child custody. As the non-custodial parent, it is vital to know your rights. Hiring a competent, experienced and compassionate lawyer for your child custody matter can ensure you have someone in your corner to help you learn exactly what your legal rights are. It is rare, but also very possible for courts to deny visitation.
The Family Code presumes visitation rights of a non-custodial parent are in the child’s best interest, but a request must contain many details for the courts to review prior to granting a liberal visitation schedule. Is the parents can work out a precise schedule with the specific details of the arrangement, an experience attorney can work to assist in avoiding common pitfalls. More frequently, after reviewing all of the evidence and argument, the court will make a detailed parenting schedule which is called a fixed visitation schedule. This includes the exact days, times and locations the non-custodial parent may visit with the children.
Child Custody modifications in San Diego
After the child custody agreement is finalized or ordered by the court, either parent may request the court to update or modify the original arrangement. In order to have the court hear a modification request, the parent requesting the change in custody or visitation must demonstrate a significant change in the circumstances warranting the modification. If you are seeking a child custody modification in San Diego courts, you should consider consulting with an experienced family law attorney to help guide you through the process in order to achieve a desired result in your child custody modification request. A skilled lawyer can give you the best strategy for your specific matter, as they are very familiar with Family Court Services, the judicial officers and their legal rulings, as well as prior cases that may be similar to yours.
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