Protect Your Rights And The Interests Of Your Children
Child custody and visitation (we prefer the term “custodial time”) disputes are typically some of the most important issues to resolve in divorce or paternity cases, or even years down the road after the Judgment is entered.
There are two forms of child custody that must be resolved – legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody refers to the decision-making rights and responsibilities regarding the health and welfare of your children, such as education, religion and medical care. Physical custody refers to the actual care and custodial control of the children; that is, where the children reside and with which parent they reside during specific periods of time. Both legal and physical custody can be either sole or joint. If parents cannot agree, the court must make decisions based on the “best interests of the child or children” standard. In our experience, we find that most cases result in joint legal custody without much strife. Physical custody, on the other hand, varies greatly from case to case.
Visitation, or custodial time, refers to the day-to-day, week-to-week and month-to-month schedule for the children either agreed upon by the parents or imposed by the court.
The public policy of the State of California is that children have frequent and continuing contact with both parents and shared parenting, consistent with balancing the children’s health, safety and welfare interests. It is no longer the case that the courts have a preference for mothers or fathers, but rather that the interests of the children are protected and preserved to the fullest extent possible while not infringing on parents’ Constitutional rights.
Put Your Children First
When custody and visitation disputes escalate to the point of “war,” children are always the victims. Even when disputes don’t escalate to this point, children pick up on a parent’s negative perception of the other parent and become subject to undue stress. It is critical that parents do everything possible to keep their children out of the middle of the adult disputes in the case, and make decisions in the case by looking at the big picture impact on their children both immediately and down the road.
Resolving Child Custody And Visitation Disputes
Whether your dispute arises in the context of divorce, paternity, domestic violence or some other time, we will conscientiously represent your interests and work to protect your rights, while at the same time give you an honest assessment of your situation and enough information for you to make informed decisions about how to proceed.
If parents are unable to reach an agreement on their own or with the assistance of their attorneys, one of them will typically file a motion with the court and ask for a hearing at which point the court will make interim orders. Prior to the court hearing, parents must attend a mandatory mediation session with Family Court Services, a division of the court established specifically to help parents sort out custody and visitation issues. Parties must attend mediation on their own, without legal counsel, but we will help you prepare for mediation so you can most effectively present your concerns and positions.
When custody and visitation disputes are complex, it is sometimes worth the extra expense to hire a private custody mediator who can spend much more time and effort working with parents to attempt resolution of the issues. And occasionally, it becomes necessary to hire a child custody evaluator who can actively investigate the situation and make expert recommendations to the court.
We have found that parents who are able to negotiate custody and visitation agreements are generally happier with the arrangements, and children generally thrive, than when decisions have to be imposed by the court. Parents know more about their own family culture and situation than any judge could possibly know or learn in the short time allocated to each case. On the other hand, sometimes there is simply no other option than to ask the court to intervene and impose orders to either protect the children or to break deadlocks.
Other Issues Related To Child Custody And Visitation
We are experienced in a broad range of child custody and visitation issues, including relocation and move-away requests, interstate custody and grandparent visitation. These issues require a skilled, knowledgeable family law attorney to ensure that your interests and those of your children are properly asserted. Regardless of your own situation, we will identify your objectives and take every necessary action to protect your rights.
Contact us or call (925) 465-2500 or (707) 398-6008 for more information or to schedule an initial consultation at Sparks Family Law, Inc. with attorney Gary D. Sparks.