If you are a parent who is facing divorce, you are probably concerned about how the divorce will affect your children, especially your relationship and the time you spend together. Where will the children live? Who gets to make important decisions for them? What if the other parent doesn't cooperate with the visitation schedule? What if the other parent tries to get sole custody? These are a few of the many concerns parents come to us with when they are confronted with a divorce or breakup.
At Roberts & Zatlin, we know how important it is for you to get your questions about California child custody and visitation answered so that you can have some peace of mind about the legal process ahead. While the facts of every family law case are unique, the law of child custody and visitation matters in California applies to all of them. Understanding the basics can help you know what to expect.
When we talk about custody, we are actually talking about two separate things: physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody means where the children live. While it is possible for one parent to have sole or primary physical custody, it is common to have joint physical custody, where the child lives with both parents. The visitation schedule, also called "parenting time," will set the days and times when the children will be with each parent.
Legal custody refers to the right and responsibility to make major decisions for the child, such as how they will be educated, what medical treatment they will receive, and what religion they will be raised in. California courts generally prefer that parents have joint custody and share in these important responsibilities, unless one parent is proven to be unfit.
Even when one parent has primary physical custody of a child, both parents may share legal custody. If the parents can work together with their child's needs in mind, this can work out well for everyone.
Typically, it is best if you and your spouse can agree on custody and parenting time arrangements. You are the ones who know your family's schedules and your child's needs. As long as your arrangements are reasonable, the court will likely approve them.
What if you cannot agree on custody and parenting time? In that case, the court will make a decision for you based on the "best interests of the child." The specific factors the court will consider include:
If it is necessary for the court to make a decision about custody, you will want to work with an attorney who knows what evidence and testimony will help the judge view your position most favorably. Once a child custody determination has been made, it can be very difficult to change unless the parties agree or there is a significant change in circumstances, so it is important to get it right the first time.
Attorney Kim Roberts concentrates her legal practice in California family law. She has over 30 years of legal experience and has represented parents in numerous child custody and parenting time cases, including modification of custody orders and move-away cases. Kim knows how stressful custody and parenting time disputes can be for parents, and offers the the guidance and fierce advocacy you need to get through this challenging time.
Roberts & Zatlin, located in Murrieta, serves clients in Temecula, Menifee, Hemet, Sun City, Lake Elsinore, Winchester, Wildomar, Riverside, San Bernardino, Orange County, Vista, San Diego, and throughout the Inland Valley. We invite you to contact us to schedule a consultation to discuss your custody matter. We look forward to working with you.