Orange County Child Custody Attorney
Divorce is an emotional enough time in your life without the addition of children. When children are involved in a divorce, both parties must spend time going through agreements regarding the best interests of the children. It is especially important to work out which parent will get primary custody of the minors and create a child visitation schedule for the other parent. If you are going through a divorce with children, you may need to contact our Orange County child custody attorneys. Our family law firm offers child custody attorneys to provide legal advice and consultation with your legal case.
Child Custody Agreements
Divorce cases are typically either resolved through a mutual agreement by both spouses or through judicial intervention if the case cannot be mediated. When children are involved, the outcome is no different, although the proceedings may take longer to resolve given the number of factors that must be agreed to. Child custody cases often lead to joint custody arrangements, which family courts look favorably. It is very rare when one parent is granted sole custody, and typically occurs if the other parent has committed egregious crimes or has committed domestic violence.
Parents often enjoy shared physical custody with their former spouse and enter into agreements to determine the length of time children spend with each parent. In joint custody arrangements, one parent becomes the primary custodian of the children of the marriage. While both spouses may have joint custody, sole legal custody is a possibility in certain scenarios, although the courts try to formulate a joint custody agreement with the best interests of the children in mind. Most children will typically live with the primary custodian and the other parent will only have custody on limited days and weekends. Both parents will continue to have rights to their children, including the right to be informed of any health issues and make important decisions jointly. Additionally, both parents can formulate parenting plans and decide where the child will attend school, and whether they can attend certain functions, and both parents must be informed of important milestones and events in the child’s life. This may become more difficult the older the child gets, but with an extensively detailed legal custody agreement and open communication between the parents, they will continue to be kept up-to-date on all occurrences. Technology is now a vital part of any custody arrangement and allows parents the opportunity to catch up with their children every day. Facetime, Skype, and other forms of communication now allow parents to talk to their children and see them every day, even if not in person. Even if you are a non-custodial parent, do not cut off conversations with your children simply because you do not see them, but make an effort to maintain a permanent fixture in their lives.
Child Custody Laws in California
A divorce or legal separation case involving minor children must involve child custody. In California, child custody is known as “parenting time.” The California Family Code Section 3010(a) states that both parents have an equal right to custody. Neither parent receives preferential treatment by a judge in a custody matter. Instead, custody determinations are made based on the best interests of the child.
The “best interests” of a child under California Family Code Section 3011 is what would best protect the child’s health, safety, and welfare. Parents in California are first given the opportunity to create their own parenting time plans or schedules. If the parents cannot agree on a child custody arrangement, the matter will go to court in Orange County.
Both parents (and their child custody attorneys) will have the chance to argue why their desired parenting plan is in the best interests of the child. A judge will listen to both sides of the case and review all pertinent information to make a child custody determination. Once the custody order is given, both parents legally must adhere to its parameters.
It may be possible to get the court’s permission to modify a child custody arrangement for a valid reason. If an official modification request is not granted, a parent who changes or ignores a child custody order could be held in contempt of court. This can result in consequences such as jail time and a loss of child custody.
Types of Child Custody in California
California law has multiple types of child custody arrangements. The specific type of custody order decided by a judge will depend on the family’s circumstances and what best satisfies the child’s needs. A judge will analyze many factors to determine the best type of custody arrangement. An Orange County parenting plan may involve the following:
- Legal vs. physical custody: California Family Code Section 3083 defines legal custody as the right to exercise legal control of the child. Section 3084 defines physical custody as the right of a parent to exercise physical control of the child. Legal custody gives a parent the right to make important legal decisions for the child, such as his or her education, religion and health care, while physical custody grants the right to have the child physically under the parent’s roof.
- Joint vs. sole custody: the two main types of child custody arrangements. Joint custody means both parents share or split physical and/or legal custody of a child. Joint custody could be a 25/75, 50/50 or another type of parenting time division that may or may not be exactly equal between the parents. Sole custody means only one parent is the custodial parent, while the other may or may not have visitation rights.
- Visitation rights: the right of a noncustodial parent to have supervised or unsupervised visits with a child. While this parent may not have physical or legal custody, he or she can still spend time with the child according to a prearranged visitation schedule. The courts may choose visitation if there is a reason to withhold custody from the other parent – such as a history of child abuse, neglect, substance abuse, child abandonment or incarceration – but if it is still in the child’s best interests to remain in contact with the parent.
California Family Code Section 3020(b) declares that it is public policy to ensure that children have frequent and continuing contact with both parents after they have separated or dissolved their marriage. The courts encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities of child custody, except when contact would not be in the best interests of the child. For this reason, the courts prefer joint custody arrangements.
How Is Custody Determined in California?
When two parents cannot work together to agree on child custody, a family law judge in California will intervene to create a custody arrangement that protects the child’s health, safety and welfare. A judge will carefully consider many factors when determining child custody, including:
- The age of the child
- Whether the child has any special needs
- The child’s relationship to either parent
- The nature and amount of contact the child has with both parents
- The child’s ties to his or her home, school and community
- Any history of abuse or neglect by either parent
- Domestic violence
- The use of controlled substances or alcohol
- The child’s wishes, if old and mature enough
It is a common misconception that mothers always receive primary or sole custody of children. State law specifically prohibits judges from considering a parent’s sex, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, or immigration status when deciding what custody arrangement is best for a child.
What Is Parental Alienation?
Parental alienation refers to one parent intentionally trying to alienate, or emotionally distance, the child from the other parent. The parent might do this by speaking negatively about the other parent in front of the child, blaming the other parent for the dissolution of marriage, undermining the authority of the other parent or guilt-tripping the child into turning against the parent.
Parental alienation can be a form of emotional child abuse that negatively affects the child and the relationship between the child and one parent. If you suspect your ex-spouse of parental alienation, contact Boyd Law to discuss your legal options. The Orange County family courts do not look favorably upon such behavior from a parent and may take steps to remedy the issue, such as holding the parent in contempt of court or modifying the custody arrangement.
The Mediation Process in Child Custody Cases
Mediation increases the odds of reaching a child custody settlement. If two parents can work together and compromise on a parenting plan that works for them and preserves the best interests of the child, a judge will sign off on the agreement and a child custody case will be settled outside of court. This can save the family time, stress and money by avoiding a child custody battle.
During mediation, both parents will meet with an unbiased third party known as the mediator to discuss their conflicts and attempt to reach a resolution. The mediator will aid in dispute resolution but will not have the legal ability to give a custody order at the completion of the meeting. Working with a lawyer during mediation can help a family reach an agreement that is in everyone’s best interests.
Free Consultation With Child Custody Attorney in Orange County
If you are going through a divorce or legal separation which involves children, do not hesitate to contact the experienced child custody lawyers in Orange County at Boyd Law. Our Orange County family law attorneys come from a wide variety of legal backgrounds and can help build your child custody case based on family law legal theories. The family law specialists at our California law offices understand that your children are the most important part of the divorce agreement and will ensure that you will maintain the same relationship with your children even after the divorce with a well-drafted child custody agreement. Contact our Orange County office today for your initial free consultation.