Protecting Your Child’s Best Interests in a Custody Case
As a child custody attorney in Orange County, Raja Gill and his legal team are experienced and knowledgeable in child custody and visitation matters. We understand the emotional toll a custody or visitation dispute can impose, and we know how to make things better. We understand the complexities of child custody in Orange County and will do our best to seek an amicable resolution to the situation, but if a settlement is not possible, then we will fiercely litigate your case in court.
Types of Child Custody in California
In California, child custody is a term that refers to two distinct parental responsibilities: legal custody and physical custody. A parent with legal custody has the right to make decisions that directly affect the life of the child. In contrast, physical custody refers to the location and parent with whom the child physically lives.
If you are a parent currently going through a divorce, you will need to reach an agreement with your spouse on the terms of legal custody. When disputes cannot be resolved outside of the courtroom, litigation may be the only option.
How Child Custody Is Determined in California Courts
In California, the courts are guided to seek the best interest of the child when making custody and visitation orders. In other words, the courts are directed by the law to do whatever is in the best interest of the child in any given case.
In the majority of cases, the courts prefer joint legal custody so that both parents can participate in making important decisions about their children. In some cases, sole custody is awarded because of inappropriate behavior or neglect by one parent.
Even in cases where joint physical custody is ordered, the child can spend more time with one parent and less with the other. The amount of detail and restrictions on parenting schedules are often determined by the degree of conflict between the parents and whether they can cooperate in the co-parenting process.
Determining Physical Custody
Along with issues such as legal custody, a judge will base decisions on what is in the best interest of the child.
Courts in California generally recognize the benefit of both parents playing an active role in a child’s life. For this reason, there is a strong presumption to award joint physical custody whenever possible.
Sole custody agreements are typically only considered when one parent represents a danger to the well-being of a child, such as in cases of domestic violence. However, sole physical custody does not preclude the possibility that the non-primary parent may be awarded visitation rights.
When awarding physical custody, a judge may consider numerous factors including:
- The mental and physical health of all involved parties
- The emotional connection between a child and each parent
- The parent’s ability to provide a healthy and constructive environment
- A child’s current standard of living and routine
- The physical location and distance of parents from each other
- Any evidence or history of substance abuse or domestic violence
How Do You Prove A Parent Is Unfit?
One reason that one parent may be awarded sole custody of their child is if they can prove that the other spouse is unfit to have custody of the child. A court will not typically rule a parent as “unfit” unless they consistently behave in a manner that may place the child in danger or potentially cause the child emotional or mental harm. There are several ways you can go about proving that a parent is unfit:
- Testimony from counselors, therapists, coaches, and other adults who are familiar with your child’s relationship with your spouse
- Police reports filed (particularly those involving domestic abuse)
- School or medical records
- Home visit inspections, photos, etc.
- Criminal records
Modify Child Custody in Orange County, CA
Sometimes a child custody agreement that worked at one point does not continue to work. If you had a child custody and visitation arrangement that is no longer practical or suitable because of your career needs or the needs of your children, then you might seek to have the child custody and/or visitation order modified by a judge.
The Orange County custody attorneys at our firm can help with seeking an agreement for the modification. If your children’s other parent does not cooperate, then your lawyers can file a request for the order in court. This will essentially hold the non-compliant parent in contempt, resulting in fines and potential jail time if they continue to violate the custody order.
Enforce Child Custody in Orange County
On the other hand, you might have joint custody of your child or be a non-custodial parent who is barred from seeing your child. If you have court-ordered custody rights, and the other parent is wrongfully preventing you from seeing your child, then you can ask the court to enforce your custody order. The court will hold them in contempt until they honor your rights and allow you to see your child. Speak with a custody lawyer in Orange County today to learn more about enforcing child custody in Orange County.
Frequently Asked Questions About Child Custody
Does the law prefer giving custody to the mother?
No, there is no legal preference for either the child’s mother or father. Courts are concerned with what custody arrangement serves the best interests of the child. This process involves a case-by-case analysis of the specific circumstances of a case.
What are the types of custody arrangements?
Generally, child custody can be divided into two different categories:
- physical custody
- legal custody
Physical custody refers to who the child lives with on a day-to-day basis, whereas legal custody refers to which parent (sometimes it can be both) has a say in how the child is raised and what decisions are made regarding things like medical treatment, schooling, religion, etc.
Within these two categories, a parent may have either sole custody or joint custody. If a parent has sole custody, they are the only parent the child lives with or the only parent that has legal custody of the child. If a parent has joint custody, the child splits their time between both parents and both parents have the right to make legal decisions for the child.
What is visitation?
In cases where one parent has primary or sole custody, the noncustodial parent may have the right to spend time with their children on weekends, or holidays from time to time. This is known as visitation rights. If you need help negotiating visitation rights, Attorney Raja Gill can help.
Are you seeking to modify a custody order? Contact our firm today to schedule an initial consultation with an Orange County child custody attorney.