Child custody battles are among the most emotionally draining experiences parents have during a divorce or parting of ways. It's not just parents who are affected—children often find custody battles, and divorce in general, incredibly stressful.
Understanding child custody laws can help make the custody process easier for all parties.
As a mom of 2, family law attorney Andrea Schneider understands how important your kids are to you.
How Does the Law Determine Child Custody?
Child custody laws vary state by state and even county by county. A local family law attorney can help you understand your county and state's specific child custody laws.
The priority of any court in a child custody battle is the wellbeing of any children involved. For example, California courts have two priorities in custody battles:
- The health, safety, and welfare of any children involved
- Ensuring that, if possible, the children continue to have contact from both parents
Obviously, the first priority takes precedence. If a parent has a record of child abuse or other behavior that jeopardizes the safety of the children, they may not have custody and may have to have supervised visitation. But, generally, courts try and ensure that children continue to see and benefit from contact with both parents.
It's important to note that most child custody battles don't go to court. Child custody is often decided by the parents with the help of attorneys drafting a legally binding agreement. Isn’t it better to come up with a plan that is best for your children instead of having a Judge do it for you?
Even in a contested divorce or situation where parents disagree on child custody, courts can be the last step in the child custody process. If possible, parents resolve their child custody dispute with the help of a mediator or attorney, and their battle never makes it to court. In San Diego, parents must go to a court appointed mediator before they go to court.
Attorney Andrea Schneider can help you at any of these stages-negotiations, custody and visitation agreements, mediation, preparing for mediation or court, representing you at court.
Negotiation, mediation, and written agreements can be really great solutions for visitation and custody. Attorney Andrea Schneider can help you create an agreement that is very specific for your family and legally binding.
Judges assume that parents know what's best for their children, and should be able to agree on a custody arrangement if they have their child's best interests in mind. Thus, Judges would really prefer not to create a plan for your family but, they will if they have to.
Legal Vs. Physical Custody
There are actually two kinds of child custody:
- Legal custody determines which parent can make important decisions (such as deciding where a child goes to school or how they receive health care) for your children.
- Physical custody dictates which parent your children live with.
Both physical and legal custody can be joint, meaning the parents share custody, or sole/primary, meaning one parent has all or a majority of the custody.
It's important to note that joint custody doesn't mean a 50/50 split in time. Due to the logistical difficulties of spending an equal amount of time with each parent, most physical custody arrangements are not perfectly even 50/50 splits.
Parents can receive joint physical custody but sole or primary legal custody, and vice versa. If one parent is much more involved in the child's life, that parent may be given power as a final decision-maker in legal custody matters (for example, they have final say concerning their child's medical care).
Legal custody governs a parent's ability to make important decisions for their children, but it doesn't give a parent control over how their ex interacts with their child. For example, even if you have sole legal custody, you can't prevent your ex from talking with your children about religion. A family law attorney can help you understand exactly how legal custody affects your relationship with your ex and children.
Visitation orders dictate when and how often a parent see’s their children. Attorney Andrea Schneider works with her clients to come up with a very specific customized visitation plan that is right for the client’s family. There are a few different kinds of visitation:
- Scheduled visitation. Scheduled visitations occur when parents work together to create a schedule (or the Judge decides this for you) that determines when a parent has custody of their children. For example, it may be decided that one parent takes the children every third week for one week, that's a scheduled visitation. Often, a more detailed plan is best.
- Reasonable visitation. Reasonable visitations are more open-ended, and allow parents to flexibly decide when the children spend time with each parent. This is not advisable for parents who don’t get along very well.
- Supervised visitation. In situations where a child's safety or wellbeing are in question, a parent's time with their children may need to be supervised. Professionally-you pay for this or perhaps by someone both parents agree on.
- No visitation. In cases where a parent is determined to be a risk for a child's safety or wellbeing, they may be prohibited from visitation. Often, no visitation orders are issued by courts as a result of evidence that a parent is abusive or negligent to their children.
The law takes several factors into account when determining visitation rights:
- How old the children are
- How healthy they are
- What emotional attachments each parent has with the children
- How capable the parents are of caring for the children
- Whether a parent has a history of violence or substance abuse
- The relationship of the children to their community, school, and home
Like custody arrangements, visitation rights are typically decided out-of-court by parents with the help of family law attorneys and/or a mediator. However, if one parent starts to disregard the child custody or visitation arrangements/orders, or there is a change of circumstances, the other parents can petition a Judge for a court order to enforce the child custody and visitation arrangements or to modify previous orders. To get a great result, preparation is very important.
Family law attorney Andrea Schneider can help you work with your ex and/or the courts to change your custody or visitation arrangement if necessary. She can help you create a very specific plan that is right for your family. As a mom of 2, she gets how important your kids are to you.
Contact an Experienced Family Law Attorney Today
At The Law Office of Andrea Schneider, our attorney is committed to helping parents achieve the best outcome for their children. Contact us online or via phone at (619) 304-8499 to receive a free consultation.