The care, stability and protection of your children are critical issues involved in every divorce case.
When two people are married and have children, they both share the custody and responsibility of raising these children. However, if the same two people divorce, the custody of their children is divided. The time shared can be split 50/50, 60/40, or another way. The parties can agree to a time-share or can allow the court to determine one, based on the best interests of the children.
When the court makes the determination, it looks at numerous factors, including who took care of the children most of the time, who took them to school and helped them with school work, who took them to the doctor and dentist, and who cooked for them.
The care of the children after a divorce is the most ongoing source of conflict for parents. Courts, most of the time, will honor a custody agreement reached by the parents. However, if they cannot come to an agreement, the court will request the parents to participate in a mandatory mediation session. If they still cannot agree on custody, the court will do so for them.
There are several types of custody arrangements:
- Physical custody – gives the parent or both parents the rights and responsibilities for the daily activities of their children. The children live with the parent or parents who is awarded physical custody.
- Legal custody – gives the parent or both parents the rights and responsibilities to make major decisions regarding their children’s upbringing – including medical care, education, religion, and day-to-day activities.
- Joint custody – Under California Family Code Sections 3080 through 3089, both parents can be awarded joint legal custody and joint physical custody. Joint custody allows both parents to share the responsibility for making major decisions. They must be able to work together.
- Visitation – The most common schedule allows the non-custodial parent to see his or her children one night during the week, every other weekend, and part of the summer vacation.
- Holidays and special dates usually alternate between the parents.
California courts most of the time favor joint legal and joint physical custody. It is best for both parents to be completely involved in the upbringing of their children; it is best for the children as well.
Custody is addressed throughout the divorce process in the following ways:
- Temporary hearing – The court issues an order regarding the legal aspects of the relationship between the two parties. It will issue a temporary custody solution if one hasn’t been agreed on.
- Mediation – is required if there are conflicts regarding the arrangement. The mediator meets with the parents and children several times and helps resolve the issues the family is facing. The mediator then sends a report to the court with custody recommendations
- Evaluation – by a court-appointed psychologist is ordered if an agreement cannot be reached prior to trial. The evaluation includes discussions with the parents, children and teachers. It must be completed before the court enters a final custody determination.
- Trial – Final custody arrangements are determined at the trial – based on the best interests of the children.
If a parent wants to change the court-ordered custody and visitation agreement, he or she must show a significant change in circumstances has occurred before requesting a custody modification.
When faced with uncertainties, an experienced family lawyer will give you the personal attention you need at a stressful time such as this. Call the Family Law offices of Holstrom, Block & Parke, located in San Bernardino, Riverside, and Orange Counties.
As experienced family attorneys, we always remind parents to focus on being the best parent possible. We will make a commitment to you and help you take positive steps towards the future.