Irrespective of whether one is in a dissolution action or a paternity action, there is no more contested subject in Family Court than child custody. With a myriad of fact patterns available to the courts in a plethora of cases, there is a wide range of potential orders. The long- standing policy of the state is that both parents should have frequent and regular contact with their children. In the absence of an out of Court agreement, it is important to know that the court will make the final decision about your child custody case but will usually approve any parent agreements regarding child custody. When looking at child custody in California, it is important to understand the basics, as discussed below.
Types of Child Custody
There are two kinds of child custody:
-School or child care
-Religious activities or institutions
-Psychiatric, psychological, or other mental health counseling or therapy needs
-Doctor, dentist, orthodontist, or other health professional (except in emergency
-Sports, summer camp, vacation, or extracurricular activities
-Residence (where the children will live)
2. Physical Custody: Who your children live with.
Physical custody can be:
Joint: Children live with both parents.
Sole/Primary:Children live with one parent most of the time and have visitation with the other parent.
California courts will always base their decisions regarding child custody on what is in the best interest of the child. Sometimes, a court will grant parents joint legal custody , but not joint physical custody. This means that both parents will share in the responsibility of making decisions in their children’s lives, but the children will reside with only one of the parents most of the time. The parent who has no physical custody will usually have visitation rights with their children.
The law says that the courts must give custody according to what is in the “best interest of the child.”
The court will consider:
The age of the child,
The health of the child,
The emotional ties between the parents and the child,
The ability of the parents to care for the child,
Any history of family violence or substance abuse, and
The child’s ties to school, home, and his or her community.
Are you looking for a experienced family law attorney to represent you in your child custody case? Contact usSunnen Law today at 619-255-9551 and speak with our knowledgeable and compassionate, but also tough when necessary Attorney Christopher Sunnen who will provide you with exceptional legal representation. Our goal is to always empower clients to make informed decisions about their future. We represent clients throughout San Diego County, including Oceanside, Carlsbad, Vista, San Marcos, Encinitas, Solana Beach, Escondido, Del Mar, La Jolla, Chula Vista, and El Cajon.
Tag: Child Custody
One of the most common questions in Family Law is whether a custody order is “permanent”. While court orders have a number of designations from “minute”, “emergency”, “temporary”, and “final”, such terms have more to do with legal questions than duration. As a matter of fact, while orders may be “temporary”, if the parties never return to court to modify them, they have a degree of permanence that may never have been intended. What is clear, however, is that as time passes, certain provisions of custody orders that at first worked well, or seemed appropriate may no longer be necessary. Without going through an exhaustive list of examples, life happens fast, and can cause changes to children’s activities, parent’s relationships, parent’s jobs, and everything else.
While custody orders can always be modified by the parties themselves without court involvement, in high conflict cases, or just regular cases, sometimes an out of court agreement cannot be reached, which means the parties must return to Court. In such situations, the Family Court custody process starts anew, with one party having to file a Request for Order (Motion), and the parties having to return to Family Court Services (FCS). It is important to note that, unless extenuating circumstances exist, the Court system is loath to send parties to FCS more than once during a calendar year. It is also important to note that custody modification motions can and do take a great deal of time to proceed through the Court system, and during that time, unless other circumstances exist that usually revolve around the safety of the minor or minors at issue, the prior orders remain in effect.
Other than reaching an out of court agreement as to custody changes, the fastest way to obtain a modification of custody orders is to reach an agreement at FCS. The main point of FCS is, if possible, to bridge the gap between the parties, and to allow a neutral third-party mediator to ascertain what is occurring with the minor or minors. If an agreement cannot be reached, this mediator will provide both the parties and the Court with their recommendations in a report.
With respect to filing motions, the main legal reasons for changing custody in California are based on the “change in circumstances” test, and whether such changes are in the “best interests” of the minor or minors. Both tests are highly fact specific and turn on the specific fact patterns of each case but are designed to prevent parties from running to Court to seek modifications for every perceived issue. When presenting such issues to the Court, one needs to provide a clear and concise list of reasons that is based on independent and corroborated evidence. While there are other ways to change custody in Family Court, such other situations usually involve restraining orders, criminal conduct, or other child endangerment issues, that while separate, also at some point consider the “best interests” of the minor or minors.
Given the nature of the relief requested, child custody modification motions are serious business, and a serious matter that one needs to be prepared for to obtain the relief that they want. There also can be many forms, depending on what type of relief one is seeking for themselves, and potentially their children. If you have questions about either filing or defending a modification request, don’t just trust what advice you receive from family and friends, or the internet, but contact an attorney who can guide you between what is real – and what is a dead end, and who will advocate for you to get the protection you need. Contact our office today with any child custody questions you may have to protect your rights and those of your children.
Categories: Child Custody | Tags: child custody, family law
Christopher Sunnen, Esq. is a San Diego, CA based attorney specializing in family law and bankruptcy law.