A legal conflict over your relationship with your child is overwhelming to all involved. Many California parents face such a legal challenge during a child custody case. California’s child custody laws and procedures are also challenging to navigate, especially while you’re amidst a personal issue. You need a Woodland, California, child custody lawyer who can explain the law with compassion and understanding so that together you can find the best strategy for you and your family.
Fortunately, the central valley family attorneys at Pakpour Banks LLP are here to help you during this trying time. We have extensive knowledge of Woodland’s child custody law and ample experience dealing with child custody issues both in and outside of court. We believe in working with our clients to develop the best legal strategy for them, which doesn’t always mean litigation. One of the main goals during a family-based legal conflict is healing within the family unit. So sometimes, the best strategy is negotiations and compromises between the parents, so a judge doesn’t make important decisions for them.
Child Custody in California
Child custody is a legal term referring to the legal and practical relationship between a parent and child or, in some instances, a guardian and child. In California, child custody involves two aspects: legal custody and physical custody. Any custody arrangement, or judicial decision involving custody, will decide on the child’s legal and physical custody.
Legal custody involves the right of a parent or legal guardian to make decisions about important matters in the child’s life. Legal custody involves the right to make decisions on significant issues such as the child’s:
- Education and schooling;
- Child care;
- Religion, religious involvement, and religious activities;
- Mental health care, such as the need for psychological therapy, counseling, or psychiatric care;
- Physical medical care, including vision, dental, or treatment by another health care professional;
- Extracurricular activities;
- Travel; and
- Other significant issues that involve the child’s welfare.
In California, courts presume that joint legal custody is in the child’s best interest so long as there’s no history of abuse or substance abuse. If parents are granted joint legal custody of the child, they must cooperate and communicate to make decisions in the child’s best interests.
A judge could grant one parent sole legal custody if it’s in the child’s best interest. In this case, only that parent can make these significant decisions for the child.
Physical custody involves how much time each parent spends with the child. Physical custody also involves where the child will live. Parents are encouraged to negotiate a parenting plan that works best for the child and each parent’s schedule. A parenting plan will set forth a schedule of when the child will spend time with each parent and when exchanges occur. As with legal custody, a judge makes physical custody decisions through the lens of what is in the child’s best interests.
How California Courts Decide Custody
You may file a custody case, or it may be a part of a divorce proceeding. Judges use specific criteria to decide on child custody issues. Specifically, any judge must weigh custody decisions against the best interests of the child. Even if the parents agree to a custody plan without a hearing or trial, a court will examine it to determine if it’s in the child’s best interests.
The court examines several factors to decide what is in the child’s best interests, including the following:
- The child’s opinion;
- The child’s health, welfare, and safety;
- Whether either parent has a history of violence or abuse, particularly against the child or other parent;
- The nature and amount of contact the child has with either parent;
- Either parent’s history with substance abuse;
- Any siblings and their residence;
- Any other factor that the court decides is relevant.
A court will consider a child’s opinion on custody if the child is of “sufficient age and capacity.” Generally, a child 14 years of age or older can address the court on this matter, but a court could, at its discretion, hear the opinion of a younger child.
Types of Child Custody Arrangements
A court has many options for dividing custody in the child’s best interests. As mentioned above, a court presumes that joint custody is in the child’s best interest unless there are violence or substance abuse issues. Joint custody requires parents to set aside their differences and work together to make decisions for their shared child.
If joint custody is not appropriate, a judge could grant legal custody to both parents and primary physical custody to one parent. If one parent gets primary physical custody, the other typically gets visitation time with the child. Or, the court can award sole legal and physical custody to one parent with supervised visitation. You should speak with a Woodland child custody law attorney about the best options for you and your child.
Can You Change a Child Custody Order?
Life changes. Scheduling time with an infant or toddler is significantly different than with a teenager involved in numerous extracurricular or social activities. Or perhaps something has recently happened with one parent where it’s no longer in the child’s best interests for that parent to care for the child.
California law permits either parent to request a modification of child custody arrangements. A parent must, however, show that there’s been a significant change in circumstances to warrant the modification.
As with the original child custody matter, the parents can agree to a new arrangement and submit it to the court, or the court will decide. And, like with an original order, the court will make any modification decision in light of what is in the child’s best interests. You should speak with a Woodland, California, child custody lawyer if you’d like to modify a custody order so that you can present your best case before the judge.
Contact Our Woodland, CA, Custody Lawyers Today
Our compassionate and effective child custody attorneys are here to help you with a child custody order or modification. Our approach is client-centered, and we focus on building your legal case and finding strategies to help your family heal through the process. Contact us today. Se habla Español.