Child support and custody issues present unique challenges and require careful consideration in light of each family’s unique circumstances. The children’s best interests must always be the top priority; however, getting both parents to agree to what is “best” can sometimes be easier said than done, and there are statutory guidelines that must be followed in all child support and custody matters.
If you have questions about establishing or enforcing child support and/or custody rights in California, the information below from our Orange County child custody attorney will help you gain a better understanding of the general process. For personalized legal advice, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation.
How Custody (and Visitation) is Decided in California
As previously noted, California judges are required by law to consider what’s in the best interest of the child when making custody determinations. That means they must look at not only the age and health of he child or children in question, but they must also consider the emotional connection between the child and the parents; the parents’ ability to take care of the child; the child’s ties to the community, school and home; and the presence of a history of substance abuse and/or violence within the family.
It is important to note that the judge will not automatically choose to give one parent custody over another regardless of the sex or age of the child or children. Further, a parent who lives an alternative lifestyle, has different religious beliefs, or was never married to the other parent cannot be denied the right to custody or visitation solely on those bases either.
Courts typically provide for child support at the time of a custody decision. Such orders are generally separate from any orders concerning custody and visitation. That said, unlike the TV shows that often show a parent “withholding” a child from the other parent because they haven’t paid child support in a year, you will not be allowed to refuse such visits on that basis.
Getting a Custody Order
In many instances, parents can come to their own agreement with respect to custody and visitation — without the need for a court order. However, if one parent later decides does not abide by the agreement, a judge won’t be able to enforce it until it becomes a court order. Ultimately, if the parties cannot reach an agreement, the judge will send you to a mediator for assistance. If that doesn’t work, the parents will go before a judge and he or she will decide the custody issues and visitation schedule.
Types of Custody Orders
Under California law, there are two types of custody: physical and legal. Physical custody, in general, can be primary (meaning the child lives with one parent most of the time and visits the other parent) or joint, meaning the child lives with both parents. Likewise, legal custody can be sole custody, whereby one parent has the legal right and obligation to make important decisions regarding the education, health and welfare of the child. Alternatively, legal custody can be joint, in which both parents share the rights and obligations noted above.
Let Our Orange County Child Custody Attorney Help You With Your Case
The laws related to child custody can be a little complex and confusing for parents who are grappling with divorce as a whole. Accordingly, we suggest that you speak with our Orange County child custody attorney as soon as possible to ensure you fully understand your legal rights and obligations. Contact us online today.