Our family law firm considers issues regarding custody and visitation of the minor children the most important ones a separated family will have to resolve. It is made more difficult by the fact that the California Legislature has tied child support to a parents visitation percentage; wherein sometimes the fight for visitation is in reality a fight for more or less child support. Our firm does not agree with modifying visitation for the sole purpose of changing one’s child support obligation. However, our firm does has the philosophical view that all good parents should have equal access to their minor children. We will do everything in our power to get you the most favorable ruling regarding child custody and visitation.
Custody is defined in the Family Code as either Joint Legal Custody, (see Family Code §3003), Joint Physical Custody (see Family Code §3004), Sole Legal Custody (see Family Code §3006), and Sole Physical Custody (see Family Code §3007). As a practical matter no parent cares what their custodial arrangement is called, but every good parent is concerned with the ability to make decisions regarding their minor child’s health, education and welfare. Good parents also wish for custodial arrangements allowing both to have frequent and continuous contact.
In a marriage dissolution or paternity matter, commonly, the most important custodial orders from the court are its first. The first custodial order is so important because after it is established, it is difficult to make substantial modifications. The general guideline is for the court to assume the status quo that the parties developed on their own; however, the court is not bound by that standard.
Standards to determining child custody
The main and most important standard the court utilizes to determine custody of the minor children is based on the best interest of the minor children (see Family Code §3011). Also, the court looks at any circumstances or events that would be detrimental to the minor children (see Family Code §3020). Finally, a parent who is found liable for domestic violence, which includes a presumption that it would not be in the best interest of the minor child for that parent to be the primary custodial parent, is bound by that presumption unless rebutted (See Domestic Violence by clicking here). Based on the aforementioned standards, the court will apply the standard that is applicable to the facts before the court and then make orders regarding a custodial plan. The court does have other methods for helping to determine what is in the best interest of the minor children and those shall be reviewed below.
Methods to determine best interest:
The court, either by noticed motion by one party or on its own motion, can appoint Minor’s Counsel, order a 730 evaluation, order focused evaluation, or determine the matter by way of an evidentiary hearing. If the parties are in agreement the court may require therapy for communication, reunification, anger management and high stress conflict cases. The court may also require therapy as a means to allow the parties to negotiate their custodial issues. Each of the aforementioned processes for determining best interest are described in more depth within this Web site.
Post Judgment Modification
A Post Judgment Modification is a modification to the custodial orders after a Judgment has been entered. Before the court will modify a custodial arrangement, a substantial change in circumstances must have occurred. Whether or not a substantial change of circumstance has occurred is a legal issue that can only be determined after reviewing all the facts.
For divorce help in Orange County, California, and to obtain a child custody lawyer, contact The Family Law Office of David C. Stone today.