When a marriage that has produced children ends in divorce, the issue of child custody and visitation is often the most difficult, emotional and time-consuming aspect of the divorce. In the best situation, both parents continue to have substantial and meaningful contact with the children and continue to play an important part in their lives, and the policy of the courts is to promote this whenever applicable. Even so, coming to an arrangement that is acceptable to both parents and also in the best interests of the kids is not always a simple matter. The San Diego Child Custody Lawyer from the Law Offices of Andy Cook can help clients through this difficult aspect of the dissolution with a constant eye toward protecting their rights and interests and reaching a resolution that meets the needs of both parent and child.
Types of Child Custody in California
The court in a divorce may grant joint custody with shared decision-making to both parents, and some form of joint custody is usually preferred by the courts, although custody is not always equal, and one parent may become the primary custodial parent. The court can also grant sole custody to one parent alone. In these cases, the court generally grants visitation to the non-custodial parent. In appropriate circumstances, the court may order that the visitation be supervised. Supervised visitation may be appropriate in high-conflict situations or when the noncustodial parent has been estranged from the child and it would be better to have the other parent or another adult present. In cases of child abuse or domestic violence, the court may deny visitation altogether.
It is important to understand that there are two different types of custody under California law: physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody refers to the actual physical care of the child; in other words, with whom the child is living. Legal custody refers to the legal right and obligation to make decisions regarding the child’s healthcare, education, religion, extracurricular activities, and other aspects of the child’s upbringing. The court has the power to grant sole or joint custody regarding both physical and legal custody, and the two forms of custody do not have to match. For instance, the parents may share physical custody with certain decisionmaking belong to the primary custodial parent. Or one parent may have sole physical custody, but important decisions must be considered jointly.
How do California courts decide child custody?
The main factor for the judge to consider in custody decisions is what is in the child’s best interest. Other factors may influence the judge when making this decision, such as:
- The age and needs of the child
- The level of the parent’s involvement in the child’s life
- The parent’s ability to care for and provide for the child
- The different living situations of the parents
- The proximity of the residences to the child’s school
- Each parent’s willingness to involve the other parent in the child’s life
- Any history of domestic violence, alcohol abuse or illegal drug use
- The preference of the child
Seek An Experienced San Diego Child Custody Lawyer Matters
Given the vast discretion of the trial judge to decide vital matters of custody and visitation, 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.