For couples with children, separation or divorce tends to complicate matters, especially since child custody can become a significantly contentious issue.
If you have been divorced or separated from your partner recently, or are still in the process of divorcing, you need to remember that your role as a parent continues. Of course, if you and your former partner or spouse disagree on the matter of child custody, the law steps in to ensure the best interests of the children are protected.
In the state of California, there are specific factors taken into account when determining child custody. Here, a seasoned Palm Desert family lawyer or custody attorney experienced in California child custody cases can provide the legal expertise you need.
Determining Factors of Child Custody Outcomes
Child custody involves the care, supervision, and provision of financial support to a minor child.
When it comes to child custody cases, the relevant laws that determine custody and visitation issues in nearly every state (including California) are focused on protecting and upholding the best interests of the child.
Although there may be variations on the definition of the term “best interests of the child” across states as well as in case law, there are general or common sense factors and themes that the majority of states share. Some of the factors the court will consider include the following:
- The child’s age and maturity level
- The child’s health, safety, and welfare
- The child’s wishes or preferences (especially if the child is over age 12), or their opinion on the custody if the child is at least 14 years of age and is mature enough to address the court and state their preference
- Where the child goes to school
- The child’s level of involvement in their community
- Either parent’s ability to care for their child
- The quality or nature of either parent’s emotional relationship with their child
- Which parent is likely to be open to sharing custody or encourages interactions and visits with the other parent
- Whether either parent has a criminal past or a history of domestic violence, sexual, or substance abuse
Of course, children have the right to spend time with both their parents. However, the court needs to ensure the children are safe and properly cared for throughout their lives – which is why there are so many factors to consider in the determination of child custody.
Under the California Family Code § 3020, the court’s primary concern is that children have “frequent and continuing contact with both parents” even when the parents intend to separate or have already separated or divorced. In general, this condition of children maintaining contact with both parents must be upheld as long as it is in the children’s best interests.
Legal Representation in a Child Custody Case
As a parent, you only want what’s best for your children. This is why you need to have the best legal representation to ensure you get your day in court. You need an experienced Palm Desert child custody lawyer who will work on presenting your case in the best possible light.
The court must see you as the loving, honest, upstanding, and dedicated parent that you are – someone who puts their children’s best interests ahead of theirs or anybody else’s.
Like you, the court only wants to secure the safety and well-being of your children, so they need to see how sincere you are in ensuring the same. Therefore, how your case is presented by your divorce attorney and how you are perceived by the court are critical to the outcome of child custody determination. This is why you need to make sure you have a skilled, experienced custody attorney fighting your fight for you.
At The Law Offices of Heath L. Baker, our objective is to get the best possible outcome for your child custody case. We’ll highlight all the qualities that make you the better parent to gain custody of the children.
The Complexity of Child Custody Cases in California
Child custody cases, no matter how complicated, must be addressed to ensure legal responsibilities are adhered to by both parents. The determination of a child custody case answers the following questions that inevitably arise when parents divorce or separate:
- Who will take care of the children?
- Who will provide child support?
- How much child support must be given?
- How much time will the children spend with either parent?
- What will the visitation schedule look like? Who gets to be with the children during holidays and birthdays?
- Would shared custody work in your case, or is your ex-partner ill-qualified to fulfill the role of a parent?
Child custody cases can be simple enough to get resolved in a matter of weeks. Others can drag on for several months, especially when the parents have a strong disagreement over certain custody conditions and their children’s future.
As such, it’s important for you to work with a qualified attorney in synthesizing all the necessary information and be ready to put your best foot forward and finalize negotiations as quickly as possible.
Understanding Child Custody Laws in California
California Family Code stipulates the laws that govern child custody cases in the state. The child’s health, welfare, and safety are of paramount importance while awarding custody to either parent. In other words, any child custody arrangements are made keeping the child’s best interests in mind.
The code further states the public policy that a child must be allowed to be in frequent touch with both parents after the divorce. An exception to this policy is when communicating with either parent is not in the best interests of the child. A Palm Desert child custody lawyer can help you understand the legal technicalities associated with child custody cases.
Here are the two main types of child custody arrangements that are usually ordered by the court of law.
As the name suggests, physical custody orders outline the amount of time a child will physically reside with each parent. The judge will decide the arrangement based on factors such as where the child goes to school or the amount of time a parent will be able to dedicate to the child.
Physical custody can be further divided into two categories, namely joint physical custody and sole physical custody.
Joint Physical Custody
In this type of custody arrangement, the judge decides that the child will be allowed to live with both parents. The proportion of time each parent gets with the child is determined by the judge based on the aforementioned factors.
Sole Physical Custody
A sole physical custody order implies that the child will exclusively reside with one parent. The judge might order sole physical custody if it makes more sense in the best interests of the child to live with one parent. For instance, if one parent lives too far from the child’s school or travels a lot, the other parent may be awarded sole physical custody. Evidence of drug abuse or domestic violence might also lead to the judge awarding the sole custodial rights of the child to one parent. In some sole physical custody orders, the other (non-custodial) parent is awarded visitation rights, if such an arrangement serves the best interests of the child.
The term legal custody refers to a parent’s right to make important decisions regarding their child’s upbringing. The judge decides whether one or both the parents should be allowed to make major, life-altering decisions such as the religion, health, education, and welfare of their child. Similar to physical custody, legal custody too can be further categorized as joint and sole.
Joint Legal Custody
Under this custodial arrangement, both you and your ex-spouse will be granted the rights and responsibilities of making major decisions in your child’s life. Physical distance from the child does not hinder a parent’s ability to make child-rearing decisions.
Sole Legal Custody
In some cases, the judge might order the exclusive right and responsibility of making child-related decisions to one parent. If your partner has a history of being abusive or indulging in drug use, you can ask the court of law to award the sole legal custody of the child to you. Such arrangements can also be ordered when the judge feels that it is impossible for both parents to make mutually agreeable decisions regarding the child’s best interests.
Tips to Win Your Child Custody Case
Aside from working with an experienced custody attorney, there are a few things you can do to protect your rights as a genuinely loving parent:
- Try to be on good terms with your ex. There’s no need for you to be friends, but you do need to stay civil with each other. Try to discuss custody amicably to come up with a fair agreement that puts your kids’ welfare first.
- Avoid talking about your ex in a critical manner, especially in front of the kids. Even if you feel strongly against your ex, avoid criticizing them or saying bad things about them as doing so could be seen as manipulative, immature behavior. Avoid posting anything remotely related to your custody case or ex on social media, too. Doing these things can put you in a bad light and hurt your chances of gaining custody.
- Research your state custody laws. Although you already have a Palm Desert child custody attorney helping you out, taking time to know and understand California custody laws can help you show the court that you are a good parent who deserves custody.
- Make room for your kids in your home. Whether your kids are already staying with you or not, you need to show that they have their own places in your home. You also need to prove to the court that you live in a place that’s great for families and that you know how to maintain a clean, safe, and secure home for your kids.
What is Parenting Time
As the name suggests, parenting time may be described as the amount of time each parent gets to spend with their child according to the custody arrangements. Your judge may designate either of the four types of parenting time orders as part of your child custody arrangements. Contact a Palm Desert child custody lawyer to know more about parenting time orders.
If you are able to work the arrangements with your partner through mutual negotiation, then this type of parenting time order will be your best bet. The open-ended parenting time order is a good choice for parents that are flexible and do not need a set schedule to access their child.
As opposed to the open-ended arrangement, a scheduled parenting time order outlines the details of dates and times each parent will get to be with the child. The schedule will stipulate which parent the child will spend time with on special occasions such as birthdays and during holidays.
If you have concerns related to your child’s safety and welfare, you can go for supervised parenting time. Under this type of arrangement, the visits with the other parent will be supervised by you, someone you know, or a professional agency. Supervised parenting time is also a useful arrangement when a child and a parent need some time to know each other better. For instance, if a child has not seen their parent in a long time, a supervised visit will help the former get more familiar with the latter. You can hire a Palm Desert child custody lawyer to know more about supervised parenting time.
If communicating with a parent is not in the best interests of the child, then the court may order no visitation as part of the custodial arrangement.
Why You Need a Child Custody Lawyer in Palm Desert
Child custody can be one of the most contentious issues related to divorce. So, how do you make sure that your parental rights are upheld in a court of law? You need a Palm Desert child custody lawyer to help you navigate the legal technicalities of a child custody proceeding and provide you with adequate representation in a court of law.
At Law Offices of Heath L. Baker, we are a team of expert family court lawyers that specialize in child custody lawsuits. Our experienced Palm Desert child custody lawyers will walk you through your parental rights and responsibilities in matters related to child custody.We will help you decide on the most suitable course of action while ensuring the welfare and well-being of your child. Do you have a question for a child custody lawyer? Get in touch with us today!