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How is Child Custody Decided in California?

If you are a parent going through a divorce, protecting and maintaining your relationship with your child is of utmost importance. Hiring an experienced, local family law attorney is critical to ensuring that your role as a parent does not end with the divorce.

The attorneys at [firm name] are ready to review your case with compassion and competence to help you understand your rights and advocate for you as a parent. With over 30 years of experience, Baden Mansfield is known as a leading Manhattan Beach family law attorney with a track record of successful outcomes for his clients.

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Types of Child Custody

In child custody cases in California, either parent can be granted custody of the children or parents can share custody. There are two types of child custody orders, and within these orders, a judge may grant joint or sole custody.

  • Legal custody is about making important decisions for the children, including those related to education, health care, and welfare.
    • Joint legal custody – Both parents share the right and responsibility to make important decisions for the children.
    • Sole legal custody – Only one parent is given the right and responsibility for making important decisions for the children.
  • Physical custody is about who the children live with.

Types of Visitation

A parent who has the children less than half the time is given visitation. Visitation may be granted in various ways, including the following:

  • Visitation according to a schedule – This plan details the dates and times that children will be with each parent and includes holidays, special occasions, and birthdays.
  • Reasonable visitation – This is an open-ended arrangement that allows the parents to work out visitation between themselves. This plan usually only works if the parents get along well and are able to communicate effectively.
  • Supervised visitation – This arrangement is used when supervision is required to ensure the child’s safety and wellbeing while with the parent. This plan may also be used in cases where a parent and child have not seen each other in a long time.
  • No visitation – This option is only used when contact with a parent would cause physical or emotional harm to the child.

How Child Custody and Visitation are Decided

how is child custody determined in californiaIn California, parents may make their own agreements for custody and visitation, and, in most cases, the judge will approve these agreements. If you and the other parent cannot agree, you will be required to go through a mediation process provided by Family Court Services. If mediation does not bring you to a solution, the judge will make a final decision. In some cases, the judge may request a custody evaluation to assist in making this decision.

Under California law, a judge is required to decide on custody and visitation according to what is in the “best interest of the child.” This decision will include several factors:

  • The age of the child
  • The child’s health
  • The ability of each parent to care for the child
  • Emotional ties between each parent and the child
  • The child’s ties to their home, school, and community
  • Any history of family violence or substance abuse

In addition to child custody orders, a judge will provide child support orders related to the amount of time each parent spends with the children.

In California, courts do not give preference to the mother or father and cannot deny custody or visitation due to a parent’s religion, sexual orientation, lifestyle, or physical disabilities.

In cases where giving custody to either parent is not in the best interest of the child, the court may give custody to someone else who is able to care for the child. This is called a “guardianship” arrangement.

Why You Need an Attorney

When you are struggling with child custody and visitation issues while going through a divorce, it’s imperative that you act quickly to protect your rights as a parent. You need an experienced family law attorney to fight for you and your relationship with your children.

The family law attorneys at the Law Offices of Baden V. Mansfield are ready to review your child custody case with compassion and competence and fight for your parental rights. Allow us to guide you through this complicated and stressful situation so that you can protect your precious relationship with your child. Contact us today by calling (310) 546-5858.

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