Child Custody Attorneys Ready to Help
When children are involved, couples can often hold on to their relationship far longer than they reasonably should – it can sometimes come after years of unhappiness and dissatisfaction. Many know someone who has suffered limited access to their children because of a messy custody battle, parental alienation, or an ex-spouse who can outspend them when it comes to legal representation. The suffering that can be associated with these divorces can be crushing, but child custody doesn’t have to be as scary and uncertain as it’s made out to be. In most cases, it comes down to two hurt people who want the same thing: what is best for their children. While it may take time to get to an agreement about what is best for their children, they are essentially on the same side. We are here to help you keep that perspective, helping you work through the challenges to get to a place of agreement.
If you may be seeking divorce and could potentially face child custody issues, contact us for help. We can even help you modify an existing custody agreement if that what you need for your unique situation. Contact Wine Country Family Law at (707) 669-0841 to schedule an appointment.
Drafting Parenting Time Agreements
While things like asset division and alimony can be tough topics during a divorce, child custody is often the most emotionally charged issue when a couple decides to split, and understandably so. Both parties often worry about losing time with their children, even if neither party actually intends to fight for sole custody. It’s a fear that crosses every parent’s mind, which is why we’re here to help you every step of the way.
In general, most parents get joint physical and legal custody in California—provided that both parents want to remain an active part of their children’s lives. If the court orders a primary or sole custody situation, it is typically due to extenuating circumstances that prevent one parent from being able to be the primary caretaker.
When we begin working with you on a custody agreement, our goal is to create a plan that meets your needs and honors your ex-partner’s needs while serving the best interests of your children. Many people still have an outdated idea of what a custody agreement is—they imagine dramatic court battles where parents sling insults at each other and fight tooth and nail for their children. That’s what we work with you to avoid. We understand that emotions run incredibly high when children are involved, but we also know that contentious custody battles can often do irreparable damage to the coparenting relationship, which can pave the way for future legal battles.
When possible, our first goal is to come to an agreement without having to take your case to court. This often means thoroughly discussing the details with you, your ex-partner, and your ex-partner’s attorney. Going in, we will work with you to figure out what is non-negotiable for you and where you may have some leeway. We will look at each parent’s work schedule and other obligations to determine what type of timesharing arrangement would be fair and equitable. This involves discussing school year schedules, summer and holiday schedules, and unusual situations like sick days or school cancellations. We will also discuss parents’ birthdays, holidays, the child’s birthday, and other days that may require special planning.
In most cases, parents can come to a fair agreement after discussing the issues and compromising. We then submit the agreement to the court for approval. If an agreement cannot be reached, the final decision will be determined by the courts. This means giving up your bargaining power—once the court makes a decision, you must abide by it. That’s why we prefer to negotiate with the other party whenever possible, helping you make the important decisions.
As a final note, parenting time is not the only thing to discuss. You also must work to determine physical and legal custody. Physical custody, as it sounds, refers to where the child spends their time. Legal custody, on the other hand, refers to the right to make decisions regarding the child’s education, healthcare, religion, and other important choices. These are also important choices that we will help you work through.
Modifying an Existing Agreement
Life changes, and we understand if an agreement you made one, five, or ten years ago may no longer serve your needs. Regardless of the reason, you may petition the court for a modified custody agreement. Perhaps one parent moves away, changes jobs or shifts, or becomes ill and can no longer care for their child. This usually goes the same route as an initial custody order. If both parties come to an agreement, we submit the modification to the court for approval. If one party disputes the change, the final decision goes to the court.
When One Parent Won’t Comply
For some parties, the challenges don’t end after a custody agreement is decided on and approved by the court. Some parents, either because they want to punish the other parent or they truly believe they have the right to override a custody order, refuse to abide by it. They might consistently fail to return the child to the other parent on time, randomly cancel their scheduled parenting days, demand additional time that is not agreed upon in the order, or even refuse to return the child. If this happens, we’re here to help. Documenting each violation of the custody order allows us to return to court to ask the court to enforce the order. In many cases, this is enough to remind the other parent that there are consequences for flouting the court’s decisions.
Child Custody FAQs
How Is Child Custody and Visitation Determined in a California Divorce?
There are a range of issues that must be negotiated during a divorce, including property division, spousal support, and child custody and visitation. In some cases, divorcing couples are able to peacefully negotiate an agreement. In other situations, however, court intervention is needed to establish an agreement that works for all parties. Matters related to child custody and visitation can be particularly contentious for some divorcing couples, as both parties have a distinct idea of how their children should be cared for and how their time should be spent.
Section 3010 of the California Family Code sets forth the initial presumption that both parents are equally entitled to custody of their children. This means that the court will not have a bias toward either parent when making a child custody and visitation determination. Consequently, the courts will try to award joint custody whenever possible. In cases where this is not feasible, sole custody may be awarded.
When determining child custody and visitation in a California divorce, the following factors will be reviewed:
- The overall health, safety, and wellbeing of the child;
- History of family violence;
- The nature of the child’s relationship with each parent;
- History of drug use;
- The child’s ties to their community, home, and school;
- Other factors that the court deems relevant to the case.
Moreover, the courts may also consider the child’s opinion on the matter, as long as the child is at least 14 years of age and able to maturely express their preference. The court may weigh the child’s opinion greatly in these cases, but the ultimate determination will be made based on the best interests of the child.
What Are the Different Types of Child Custody in California?
There are two different types of child custody in California, namely physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody indicates where the child lives, while legal custody pertains to how all major decisions regarding the child’s education and wellbeing will be made. Typically, parents will share joint legal custody, unless one parent is deemed unfit to make decisions or if the parents are completely unable to cooperate and make decisions together.
Physical custody is much different from legal custody. If a parent is awarded sole physical custody, the child will reside with that parent full-time. The noncustodial parent may be granted visitation rights, however. Visitation, also known as parenting time, can be ordered in any of the following ways:
- Scheduled time with the child
- Open-ended and reasonable visitation
- Supervised visitation
- No visitation
Generally, as long as the child will not be subject to physical or emotional harm when spending time with the non-custodial parent, visitation will be allowed.
Can a Parent Change Child Custody Arrangements in California?
Yes, a parent can change a child custody arrangement in California. The parent must first seek court approval to modify an existing child custody agreement. It should be noted that even if a parent requests a change in the arrangement, the modification may not be granted. The court will always consider what is in the best interests of the child. If the proposed change does not reflect the child’s best interests, the court will likely deny it.
If there is already an open family law case, the FL-300 Request for Order is used to petition for a change in child custody arrangements. If the modification is approved, the change will go into effect immediately. If it is denied, the decision is final but further requests may be submitted if circumstances change.
How Does Relocation (Move-Away Request) Affect Child Custody in California?
According to Section 7501 of the California Family Code, a custodial parent has the right to change the residence of their child as long as the parent obtains court approval and the relocation would not negatively impact the wellbeing of the child. A move-away request may be used to seek approval from the court.
With this request, the parent must indicate why the relocation is in the best interests of the child. It is also necessary to prove that the move will not impact the other parent’s relationship with the child, as the court will always try to make a decision that allows for frequent and continuing contact with both parents.
Generally, the court will hesitate to make a decision that disrupts the stability of an existing child custody agreement. The parent who wishes to relocate will need to provide extensive evidence that the move is undeniably in the best interests of the child.
How Wine Country Family Law Can Help
The team at Wine Country Family Law knows well how challenging these issues can be. We have helped many clients navigate child custody cases, from simple agreements between amiable co-parents to drawn-out battles between parents that cannot agree on anything. We know that this all comes down to one root fear: losing your child. Through custody talks, a frank discussion of the issues, and negotiations, we will guide you through this process and keep you informed every step of the way.
We understand that for many people, child custody is the most emotionally draining and difficult parts of divorce. We strive to help you through this time by keeping you informed, empowering you to be an active part of the discussion, being a supportive but objective voice, and helping you find an agreement that protects your relationship with your child. This time may be challenging, but it will not last forever. With the right legal assistance, you can come through custody discussions with your dignity and coparenting relationship intact.
Reach Out for Help With Your Child Custody Case
Custody talks are often a source of contention and arguments during divorce, but they do not have to derail your life or destroy your coparenting relationship for years to come. We want to advocate for you and guide custody discussions in a meaningful and productive way. If your coparent violates your rights or otherwise tries to harm your relationship with your children, we are ready to step in and vigorously defend your best interests. To set up a child custody consultation, call Wine Country Family Law at (707) 669-0841 or reach out .
What to Expect
During your initial consultation of up to one hour (or by phone or video conference), we can discuss how we can help with:
- Establishing a Child Custody and/or Visitation Order
- Modifying a Child Custody and/or Visitation Order
- Divorce involving Children
- Step-Parent and Second-Parent Adoption
- Termination of Parental Rights
- Name Changes
Talk to Child Custody Lawyers in Santa Rosa
If you’re a parent looking for child custody lawyers in Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park, Windsor, Healdsburg, Sebastopol, Petaluma or other area, you can turn to us.
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