Were you denied child custody or visitation rights?
Corona Child Custody Attorney
Protecting Your Parental Rights
Child custody battles can be heartbreaking ordeals that cost a great deal of money, leaving everyone involved unhappy and dissatisfied. In an effort to minimize these disputes, California family courts have instituted a mandatory mediation process before parents can proceed to court with their child custody action. During the mediation process, the courts expect divorcing parents to focus on one critical factor: what is truly in the best interest of your child.
Every family law court determines and approves the custody arrangements for each child. They separate custody into two categories defined below:
- Physical custody: This area of custody determines where the children should live, with which parent, and for what periods of time. Parents with joint physical custody usually share legal custody.
- Legal custody: The right to make decisions regarding a child’s health, education, and upbringing. Joint legal custody does not necessarily imply joint physical custody.
Common Custody Arrangements
Physical and legal custody is further defined by the court or agreed upon in mediation in several different ways. There are a few combinations of custody arrangements, best discussed with a talented attorney from our firm.
Below are terms that summarize them all:
- Sole custody: One parent is designated the custodial parent, with the child living primarily with them. The other parent is called the non-custodial parent. Sole physical and legal custody is typically awarded when there is a history of abuse and/or neglect, but this can differ from county to county. A non-custodial parent may be granted visitation rights, depending on the circumstances of the case.
- Joint custody: Also known as shared custody, parents share responsibility for major decision-making, and/or physical care of the children. In this scenario, parents work together and with an attorney to develop and maintain a workable arrangement.
- Split custody: This is where each parent takes custody of different children when more than one child exists in the scenario. Example: son lives with their father, daughters live with their mother. It’s a rare arrangement, but it is pursued when in the best interest of the children.
- Bird’s Nest Custody or “Bird Nesting”: In a reversal of the normal situation (where children change homes at pre-arranged intervals), “bird nesting” requires parents to take turns living in the family home while the children stay put. This is a way to have the parents work around the kids instead of the reverse.
How Custody is Determined During the Divorce Process
Questions of custody tend to arise early on during divorce proceedings. Short-term solutions are usually easy for couples to determine, but the long-term awarding of custody and visitation rights are much more hotly contested. In these cases, litigation is often the only possible route to developing a strong and fair custody agreement.
Custody is resolved throughout the divorce process in the following ways:
- Temporary hearing: Typical legal proceedings can take months, so if you need an expedited solution from a judge that temporarily provides relief for a specific complaint, your attorney will suggest a temporary hearing. When custody is contested, the result of such a hearing is a temporary custody order. Temporary custody is generally granted to the parent who stays in the marital home, barring proof that arrangement won’t benefit the child in question. Temporary custody should have no influence on the final permanent custody agreement.
- Mandatory mediation: In mediation with divorcing couples, spouses will work with a neutral third party to attempt to resolve their disagreements. In some cases, both parties can still be represented by individual attorneys to ensure the protection of their and their children’s best interests. In some cases, parents use mediation to resolve child custody while keeping the remainder of divorce issues—like property division—open for a judge to decide.
- Custody evaluation: If there is no agreement, the court may require a custody evaluation to be conducted. A licensed, court-appointed mental health professional— like a psychologist or a social worker—will conduct the custody evaluation. They report their professional opinions based on the following: interviews with both parents together or individually, interviews with the children, observations on the children with each parent, conversations with teachers, and possible psychological testing of both parents and children. This can take many weeks, and a ruling will not be made until the final report is completed and presented to the court.
- Trial: The state of California family law courts decide contested custody according to the best interests of the child or children. Determining what is in their “best interest” may include review of several factors, including: age, parent connection and attachment, who the primary caretaker is, the parents’ physical and mental health, if there is any past or present domestic violence, and more.
Understanding Your Visitation Rights
Visitation is among the most contentious issues in a divorce action that involves child custody. As a non-custodial parent, it is important to understand your rights and have a legal advocate who can help you pursue them. Only in extreme scenarios will a court deny visitation rights; however, they may order supervised visitation.
When a court determines the visitation rights of a non-custodial parent, parents must work out a precise schedule with the actual details. More frequently, courts will set up a detailed parenting schedule, called a fixed visitation schedule. This includes the times and places the non-custodial parent may visit with the children, as well as other restrictions.
Child Custody Modifications
Once custody is in agreement or as ordered by the court, parents may return to court to modify the original arrangement. To support a modification request, the parent requesting the modification must prove a significant change in circumstances. We highly recommend working with an attorney to assist and guide you through a modification of child custody court order. They can review your current orders and give you the best strategy for your specific case, as they are very familiar with local courts and standard rulings for cases similar to yours.
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