Whether a father of a child is or was married to the person now raising that father’s child, or if the father’s paternity has not been established in court yet, working out custody issues with the parent or other party raising the child can be one of the more difficult processes in family law, both from a legal perspective and an emotional perspective. Establishing custody and visitation rights with a child can also go on for years as the parties’ circumstances change. At the Law Offices of Andy Cook in San Diego, we help parties who are dealing with visitation and custody issues, while ensuring that the rights and interests of the parties and those of their children are preserved and protected now and into the future.
Establishing Custody and Visitation in a Divorce or Separation
When parents begin the process of separation or divorce, it is important to start planning for custody and visitation as soon as possible. In many cases, the parents will work together, often through negotiation facilitated by their lawyers, to create an agreement for custody and visitation that will work for both parents and, most importantly, will serve the best interests of the child or children of the parents. While this agreement will of course deal with how much time the children spend with each parent and under what circumstances (i.e. which parent will accompany the children to their soccer games), it should also set out an arrangement by which decisions are made for the children’s welfare, including their health and education, and what kind of access each parent has to the children in general, i.e. ability to telephone the children. After the parties or their lawyers work out this arrangement, they will go through the process of filing the necessary documents in court and seeking the judge’s approval.
When the parties are unable to reach an agreement, the court will make its own determination regarding custody and visitation. Custody involves a determination of both legal custody, which relates to the decisions made about a child’s life and welfare such as where the child goes to school, as well as physical custody, which is a determination of where the child lives. A judge can grant legal custody to one or both parents, and may separately order physical custody either solely or primarily to one parent or jointly to both parents. A judge may also issue a visitation order when one parent does not have sole, primary, or joint custody of the children. This visitation can be set by schedule or done only under supervision, or a judge might choose to grant no visitation at all where it would be in the best interests of the child.
Initiating a Custody or Visitation Request
To initiate the process for obtaining a custody order, a party can either include the request in an ongoing family court case or begin a new case. In either situation, the party will have to file specific documents with the court requesting custody. Requests for custody may also be combined with requests for court-ordered child support. A party who is a victim of domestic violence may request court orders for custody and visitation in connection with a request for a restraining order. A father of a child who has not been married to the other parent of the child will usually need to establish paternity before he can request custody or visitation with that child. Establishing paternity can be a complicated process if the other parent disputes the paternity.
Seek Experienced Legal Representation in California Child Custody Matters
Given the vast discretion of the trial judge to decide vital matters relating to the legal and physical custody of your children, it is essential to be well-represented by experienced family law attorneys who can prepare and present a persuasive case that argues for your interests in a compelling fashion. The lawyers at the Law Offices of Andy Cook possess the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary to provide you with the representation you need in this critical area.