Child Custody Attorney in San Diego, CA
- What does “best interest of the child” mean?
- What are the types of child custody?
- What happens if you lose child custody?
- Can I modify the child custody agreement?
Resolving Child Custody & Visitation Issues
Child Custody is an agreement on parental rights to the child or children. Child custody disputes can be heart-wrenching, emotionally taxing conflicts. They can also cost a significant amount of money and leave everyone feeling unhappy. If a parent happens to lose their job or move out of state, this event can change the custody arrangement. In some cases, it seems as though there really are no winners. Child custody attorneys can help you sort out the Court’s terms and methods of making decisions.
In an effort to help prevent ugly custody battles, the family courts in California now require that these disputes go through a mediation process before parents can proceed to court. During mediation, the courts mandate that divorcing parents focus solely on one critical factor:
What is truly in the children’s best interests?
The best interests of the children should always come first, whether the divorce is between wealthy parents with vacation homes and significant assets, or parents who are just getting by. The family unit is valuable to the development of a child, and when that unit must be broken up there are ways to protect children and ensure they have what they need to continue to grow and thrive.
The Law Office of Renkin & Associates handles child custody issues and disputes throughout San Diego County. The attorneys in our Family Law practice are experienced in these types of cases, and they will actively listen to your needs. They help you face the tough decisions, answer your questions, and prepare you for every step of the mediation process that lies ahead. The more prepared you are when it comes to family law mediation, the better chance you’ll have of getting a great outcome for your children.
Understanding how child custody works can be a good first step in getting prepared for the mediation process. Here are some things to keep in mind during negotiations and court proceedings.
San Diego, California Rules on Child Custody
Similar to courts in most other states, California courts prefer for children of divorce to maintain as much contact with both parents as possible. However, since the parents will no longer be living together, working out joint custody arrangements can become difficult. If one parent is unfit or incompetent or abusive, the court may award the custody of the children to the other parent. Although the parents are allowed to attempt to negotiate their own custody arrangement, a court will not honor a prenuptial agreement that specifies who gets custody of the children or that includes a waiver of or limitation on child support. These have been found to violate public policy.
Payment of Child Support
Both parents are required to support their children after a divorce, and the amount of the support can vary depending on the parents’ income and the agreed upon custody arrangement. Child support is included in the payor’s reported income for tax purposes. Child support is also unique in that even if the paying spouse declares bankruptcy, he or she will not be able to remove his or her obligation to pay.
Making Sure Your Children Get Your Assets
If you and your spouse have children or you have children from a previous marriage or relationship, you may want to consider how to make sure that these children do not lose out on access to your property following your divorce or in the event that you pass away before your divorce is final. Your spouse may automatically be entitled to a certain percentage of your assets depending on how long you have been married and how you obtained these assets. However, there may be ways to ensure that your children remain entitled to as many of your assets as possible, such as changing the status of your property to tenants-in-common or creating a trust for them.
California Pets In Divorce
Lately, there has been a push toward courts determining who gets custody of pets in a divorce in a similar way to who gets custody of children. Although the court may look at who purchased the pet and cared for it initially, the court may also look at which spouse would be better equipped to take care of the pet and will also hear evidence on whether one spouse has abused the pet.
There are two types of child custody:
There is “legal custody” and “physical custody”. “Joint custody” is when both parents share the decision living arrangements equally. You would call it “joint legal custody” and “joint physical custody”.
- Sole physical custody – Sole Physical custody is where the child will primarily live the majority of the time.
- Joint physical custody – Joint physical custody is when the child lives with both parents such as one week with mom and one week with dad and or a consistent alternating between both parents.
- Sole Legal Custody – Sole legal custody means that only one parent will make all the important decisions for the child such as school, religion, medical decisions, etc.
- Joint legal custody – Joint legal custody means both parents involved agree about important decisions such as school, religion, medical decisions, etc. This may also involve mediation at times if both parents cannot agree on specific decisions.
What is Legal Custody?
Legal custody establishes which parent gets to make the decisions for the children’s welfare, religious upbringing, health, education, etc. Courts prefer to award joint legal custody so that both parents remain as involved in their children’s lives as possible.
Even if you share legal custody – via joint legal custody – the non-primary-caregiving spouse may wish to defer smaller decisions to the primary caregiver, such as when the child can go to the doctor in order to prevent inefficiencies. However, all parents still may want to be involved in bigger decisions like where the children go to school or what extra-curricular activities they should be involved in. If divorcing couples continuously disagree on even small issues about the children, the case may be considered “high conflict,” and this may lead a judge to award legal custody (or final decision-making authority) to one parent alone. Sole legal custody may also be awarded if one of the parents waives his or her right to legal custody, lives far away, is not involved in the child’s life, or has a history of being abusive.
What is Physical Custody?
Physical custody determines which spouse the children live with regularly and therefore “visit” with the other parent. It can be shared between the parents via joint physical custody, or it can be awarded to just one of the parents solely. Like in the case of legal custody, judges prefer to order joint physical custody wherever possible in order to keep both parents involved in the children’s lives. Nevertheless, just because one spouse has primary physical custody does not mean that the other spouse never gets to see the kids.
Terms such as “primary or secondary child custody,” or “50/50 custody,” can also be used to describe child custody agreements. In addition, the final custody and visitation arrangements that are made may affect child support obligations.
Our child custody lawyers offer fair, effective and aggressive representation to protect your parental rights while making sure the best interests of your children are well-served. That can feel like a balancing act in some cases, especially when there is a lot at stake for both the parents and the children, but having good legal representation can be just what you need to make an important difference in the life of your children.
There are no guarantees in custody cases, but there are ways to improve your odds and suggest a better outcome that will more strongly benefit your children while remaining fair and equitable to both parents.
Loss of Child Custody
If the court finds that a parent is unfit and does not have the ability to raise the child, the court can take away custody, usually on a temporary basis. In doing so, they will have a set of tasks for the parent to complete. Completing the task will show that the parent is willing to prove that they are going to be a good role model for the child. Your Child Custody Lawyer can fight for your rights and help you prove to the court that you are doing your do diligence in completing these tasks to regain custody of your child.
Modifying Child Custody Agreements
It is possible to modify a child custody agreement that is not working for you and that you are not happy with. You can modify a child custody agreement through the court, or if you are in an amicable situation, you can just ask to make a new agreement without being seen by a judge. It is still advisable to seek help from a Certified Family Law Specialist with a background in child custody to make sure that your rights are being protected. A child custody attorney can help you file for this order.
Visitation and Other California Divorce Issues
The visitation schedule determines the non-custodial parent’s time with their children. It can also affect child support calculations, so it is generally one of the most contentious issues associated with divorce cases. The Certified Family Law Specialists understand the importance of visiting your children and having time with them. We work very hard to secure a meaningful parenting future for every one of our clients.
If you find yourself concerned about the visitation rights you currently have, or how custody and visitation rights may be resolved in your pending divorce, the experienced lawyers at our Family Law practice can evaluate your case and help ease your mind. For further support or advice, call our office at 619-299-7100 or email us to schedule a consultation with a San Diego divorce attorney.