Child Custody Lawyers in San Diego Providing Legal Advice and Representation for Clients With Child Custody Issues
Child custody is one of many important aspects that need to be resolved as a part of a divorce. However, it is vital to be cautious when making child custody decisions, as it can be hard to think clearly when so much is at stake. Learn how child custody works in California and see how an attorney can help you navigate this often complicated aspect of your divorce.
How Does Child Custody Work in California?
California courts define child custody as the rights and responsibilities of parents to take care of their children. Visitation refers to how each parent will spend time with the children. Both custody and visitation matters must be decided by mutual agreement, or the court will make those decisions if the parents cannot agree.
There are two kinds of child custody – legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody refers to the ability of a parent to make important decisions on behalf of the child. If parents have legal joint custody, they share the decision-making rights and responsibilities on behalf of the child. If a parent has sole legal custody, it means that the parent is the only one who can make decisions concerning important aspects such as healthcare, education, and the well-being of the child.
Physical custody refers to whom the child lives with on a daily or scheduled basis. Parents can have joint physical custody, meaning the child lives with both parents, or sole/primary custody, which means the child spends the majority of time living with one of the parents and visits the other parent according to a visitation schedule. The parent that spends less than half the time with the children can visit the children according to the type and visitation schedule determined by the court.
The most common visitation arrangement is by a predetermined schedule, which contains detailed dates and times for the child to be with each parent. Some parents agree on a reasonable visitation order, which is more flexible and open-ended without pre-determined visitation dates and times. In some cases where the welfare and safety of the child may be at risk, the court may order supervised visitation. During supervised visitation, the child can spend time with the other parent under the supervision of another adult or a professional. In less common cases where visiting the other parent, even with supervision, would endanger the child, the court may order no visitation and eliminate any contact between the other parent and the child.
How Can a Parent Get Sole Custody of Their Kids in California?
Most people think of “sole custody” as having both physical and legal custody of the child, meaning the child lives with that parent. That parent is solely responsible for making decisions on behalf of the child. It is important to understand that the courts may hesitate in awarding a child’s legal and physical custody to only one of the parents. That arrangement often applies only to cases where allowing the child to be in contact with the other parent would pose a real danger and threaten the child’s physical or mental well-being.
A parent who wishes to request full legal custody of the child must be prepared to show the court that the arrangement would be in the child’s best interests. California courts tend to favor custody arrangements that allow the child to have frequent and regular contact with both parents. Those wishing to seek sole legal custody must show evidence that what they are proposing will benefit the child. If you are planning to seek full custody of your children or need to know how to respond to a potential full custody order against you, consult a child custody attorney as soon as possible to discuss your options.
Can a Custodial Parent Move Away From California With the Kids?
If you are a custodial parent planning to move away with your kids, it is important to consult a family attorney to see how your move may affect your current custody arrangements. A custodial parent can move away with the children, but the noncustodial parent must be notified about the move in writing, usually at least 45 days before the move is expected to happen.
During this time, both parents can have a chance to talk about how to adapt parenting schedules to the new situation, and the noncustodial parent can file an objection against the custodial parent’s move and ask the court for custody modifications. The court will decide if the move will be in the child’s best interests or if custody should be modified and awarded to the noncustodial parent.
Can Children Decide Which Parent to Live With in California?
In California and many other states, family law courts use the child’s best interests standard as guidance for custody decisions. This standard includes several factors such as each parent’s financial situation, parenting skills, history of drug and alcohol abuse or domestic violence, and which parent has been the child’s primary caretaker most of the time.
One of those factors is the child’s wishes. Children who are considered mature enough to express their preferences for which parent they would rather live with (usually at the age of 14) may be interviewed by a judge outside of the courtroom, and the judge will listen to the child’s preferences but may or may not choose to agree with them. The child can express their preferences but cannot decide which parent to live with – that decision is ultimately up to the judge, who will weigh the child’s preferences against all other factors to make a decision that would be in the child’s best interests.
Is California a ‘Mother’ State for Custody Decisions?
One of the most common questions about child custody in California is whether the state gives preference to mothers when making child custody decisions. While this may or may not be true about other states in the country, California courts make child custody decisions based on what is best for the child. Both parents have equal rights regardless of their gender.
Rather than relying on old-fashioned gender biases that view mothers as the primary caretaker, courts will look at a variety of other factors, such as the ability of each parent to provide for the child, the location where each parent lives or plans to live after the divorce, and whether either parent has a history of drug abuse, criminal convictions or domestic violence. In many cases, the court may prefer to keep both parents involved in the process of raising the child by granting joint custody. In short, California is neither a “mother” nor a “father” state for custody decisions; instead, the courts may favor whatever arrangement is determined to be in the child’s best interests.
What Should I Do if I Need to Make Changes to My Custody Orders?
After you receive your final child custody orders, you and your ex-spouse are expected to comply with them, and neither party may unilaterally make changes or refuse to follow custody orders. For example, it is common for a parent to try and withhold the other parent’s access to visitation time with the children if that parent is behind on child support payments. However, doing that is not recommended because even though your ex is not complying with a child support order, you should still comply with the child custody and visitation orders, or both sides could be held in contempt of court.
To make changes to your custody orders, you must petition the court by filling out the necessary forms and being ready to demonstrate that there has been a significant change in circumstances to justify the modification. It is always best to consult a child custody attorney before initiating a modification request. At Khosroabadi & Hill, our attorneys can help you with modification requests as well as all other aspects of child custody. Contact our San Diego office at 858-240-2093 to learn more.