Our Irvine Divorce Lawyers Understand Your Desire to Protect Your Child or Children in a Divorce
As a parent, one of the most challenging aspects of going through a divorce is witnessing the impacts that your divorce has on your child. Even if getting a divorce will ultimately be in your child’s best interests, the process can be complicated. Your child is not likely to fully understand why his or her parents are no longer living together. With this in mind, when preparing to go through a divorce, it is important to address your child’s needs proactively, and this is one of several areas in which an experienced Orange County family lawyer can help.
The Child-Related Aspects of Divorce in California
There are multiple child-related aspects of divorce under California law: (i) child custody and visitation, and (ii) child support. Parents must comprehensively address both of these issues during the divorce process. While there are guidelines that exist, parents must focus on making decisions that reflect their unique family and financial circumstances.
1. Child Custody and Visitation in California
In California, the law supports the establishment of custody and visitation arrangements that ensure children will maintain loving and supportive relationships with both of their parents after a divorce. For example, Section 3020 of the California Family Code states:
“[I]t is the public policy of this state to ensure that the health, safety, and welfare of children shall be the court’s primary concern in determining the best interests of children when making any orders regarding the physical or legal custody or visitation of children[,] . . . to ensure that children have frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage, . . . and to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities of child rearing . . . .”
To this end, California law does not inherently favor either parent in divorce proceedings. Except in cases of significant domestic violence, child abuse or drug use, parents will be expected to share parenting rights and responsibilities after their divorce. All child custody determinations must be made based upon the “best interests” as determined based on the factors outlined in Section 3011 of the California Family Code.
For more on establishing child custody during a divorce in Orange County, you can read our Irvine family law lawyer’s overview here: California’s “Best Interests” Factors for Child Custody Determinations.
2. Child Support in California
All parents must financially support their children under California law. Payment obligations are established under California’s Child Support Guidelines, with exceptions to be made in appropriate cases (primarily in high-income divorces). When calculating child support, both parents’ income from all sources must be considered, with deductions for taxes, health insurance premiums and certain other expenses.
While calculating child support may appear to be one of the more straight-forward aspects of the divorce process in Orange County. There are many nuances and complexities, and mistakes can prove costly for a party who is not well represented. As a result, it is strongly recommended to work with an experienced family lawyer to ensure that you arrive at an appropriate child support calculation.
Parenting Your Child During and After Your Divorce
When going through a divorce, protecting your children involves much more than ensuring that you have a solid parenting plan and that your children will have access to the financial resources they need in the years to come. Going through a divorce is emotionally challenging for children of all ages. Helping your children cope with the psychological effects of your divorce will be essential to their long-term emotional stability and well-being.
Helping Children Cope Emotionally During a Divorce
Children of different ages respond differently to divorce, and there is research to suggest that even infants can react negatively to stress in their home environment. As children age, their response and coping mechanisms evolve, although studies show that even teenagers are not yet fully equipped to manage the unfamiliar psychological impacts of their parents’ divorce. Signs that a child may be struggling to cope with his or her parents’ divorce include:
- Infants – Irritability, outbursts, and developmental delays or regression
- Toddlers – Crying, seeking attention, and developmental delays or regression
- Preschoolers and Kindergartners – Outbursts, expressing worry or frustration, emotional dependence
- Elementary School Age – Expressing anxiety or fear of abandonment, signs of depression and physical symptoms of stress
- Pre–Teen and Teen – Similar signs to those exhibited by elementary school-age children, as well as efforts to “test” whether their parents will be there for them after the divorce
Preparing for Life Post-Divorce
Just like adults, for children, the effects of going through a divorce do not end when the divorce process is over. Coping and adjusting to post-divorce life takes time, and, as a parent, there are steps you can take to help ensure that the transition is as comfortable and low-stress as possible. Some examples of these steps include:
- Know the Terms of Your Divorce – To avoid running into issues with your children’s other parent, make sure you are intimately familiar with the terms of your divorce. This is particularly true concerning your parenting plan and parenting time schedule.
- Address Any Issues or Concerns Proactively – If you run into an issue with your former spouse, or if your child is exhibiting signs that they may be struggling to cope with post-divorce life, do not let the problem linger. Address it proactively, always keeping your child’s best interests in mind.
- Take Care of Yourself – To be able to care for your children, you need to take care of yourself as well. It is important not to forget that getting divorced is difficult for parents, too, and you will need time to cope with all of the various changes to your life.
- Communicate Amicably with Your Former Spouse – No matter what the circumstances may be, when dealing with child-related issues, it is almost always going to be best to remain amicable when communicating with your former spouse. If a situation begins to escalate, seek help rather than allowing it to devolve.
- Seek Professional Help When Necessary – From handling disagreements to helping your child cope with the psychological effects of your divorce, you should not hesitate to seek professional help when necessary. In many cases, doing so will allow you to minimize any negative consequences and return your focus on your new day-to-day life.
- For more information on this topic, read our Guide for Divorcing Parents.
Speak with an Irvine Family Lawyer at Seastrom Tuttle & Murphy
At Seastrom Tuttle & Murphy, we help parents in Orange County navigate all aspects of the divorce process. If you are contemplating a divorce and would like more information about the steps you can begin taking to prepare, call 949-474-0800 or contact us online to speak with an Irvine family law lawyer in confidence.