One of the most important issues in family law cases involving children is custody of the children and the parenting visitation plan. Child custody and visitation, if disputed between the parents, are probably the most difficult, contested and emotional issues.
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California law distinguishes between legal and physical custody, which can be joint or sole. A parent with sole legal custody has exclusive authority to make decisions pertaining to the child’s health, education, and welfare. Where parents have joint legal custody, both parents are entitled to make these decisions. If a parent has sole physical custody, the child primarily resides with that parent. California law does not provide a presumption in favor of any particular custodial arrangement.
California courts make decisions on custody and visitation based on the best interest of the child standard. The courts focus on the history and the nature of contact between the parents and the child, the child’s health, safety and welfare, the parents’ health, including alcohol or drug abuse and any history of domestic violence and many other factors. The courts also consider the child’s preference if the child is old and mature enough to express a preference. The court may appoint an attorney to represent the child’s interests in the custody dispute. The courts focus on the frequent and continuing contact with both parents and other relevant considerations. Under certain circumstances, the court may order supervised visitation.
Custody disputes often arise when a parent plans to relocate with the child and the other parent is opposing the relocation, so called move-away cases. The move-away cases are generally highly contested and the California case law on the move-away issue is complex. In move-away cases, it is essential to examine the existing orders and determine what role each parent plays in the child’s life. It is important that you obtain legal representation to navigate you through the complexities of the move-away law. This office will assist you if you are considering moving away or are opposed to relocation.
In custody and visitation disputes, California law requires that the parents attend mediation attempting to arrive at a settlement. However, if the parents are unable to reach an agreement, the case will be set for trial and the court will make the determination. This office will provide knowledgeable, responsive and diligent representation of your interests in a custody dispute.