Parents may need to walk away from each other, but that doesn’t mean they want to walk away from their kids. Whether you are seeking an initial custody and visitation order or trying to modify an existing one, you want to do everything you can to preserve a strong relationship with your children. One of the best things you can do is enlist the help of lawyers who have experience handling custody issues in San Diego courts.
Kaspar & Lugay, LLP’s San Diego office helps clients navigate stressful child custody situations. We help parents communicate their wants and desires for their children the clear and concise manner courts expect. From filing paperwork to completing custody mediation to advocating for you in court, our family law attorneys will be by your side through every part of the custody and visitation determination.
How Is Child Custody Determined in San Diego?
Ideally, the parents will be able to keep the custody issue out of court by reaching an agreement themselves. If the issue needs to be turned over to a judge, then the judge will evaluate the situation and apply a long list of factors listed in California law. The judge is required to reach an arrangement that is in the best interests of the child. To do this, judges consider multiple factors, including:
- The child’s age
- The child’s preference, if they are old enough and mature enough to have a valid opinion
- Each parent’s relationship with the children
- The parents’ financial situations
- The parenting abilities of each party
- Willingness of each parent to cooperate with each other to make the arrangement work
The Two Types of Custody in California
California law recognized two types of custody, legal and physical:
- Legal custody: Refers to the right to make major decisions about the child’s health, education, religion and other important matters.
- Physical custody: This is a parent’s right to physically have the child in your care.
Examples of Possible Child Custody Arrangements
The default position of California courts is that it is usually in the child’s best interest to have “frequent and continuing contact with both parents.” There are exceptions to this, of course, such as when one parent has a history of domestic violence or substance abuse. In such cases the child would probably not benefit from contact with that parent.
Physical and legal custody are allocated between the parents either “jointly” or “solely.” Joint means both parents share custodial rights.
- Joint legal custody: Both parents share decision-making authority and must communicate with each other to reach mutually agreeable decisions.
- Joint physical custody: Both parents have the opportunity to have the child live with them for a certain amount of time every year. It does not necessarily mean that the child will live with each of them 50% of the time. There will be a timeshare arrangement that spells out when the child will be with which parent.
- Sole legal custody: One parent is granted full decision-making power; the other parent has no say.
- Sole physical custody: The child lives exclusively with one parent. The other parent may receive visitation, which can be supervised or unsupervised.
Parents could be granted joint physical custody while at the time one receives sole legal custody. Or there could be sole physical custody but joint legal custody. Everything depends on the circumstances of your family and what is in the best interests of your children.
Is One Parent Favored Over the Other?
No, California is neither a “mother state” nor a “father state.” What matters is the best interests of the child. The presumption is that the child should have a relationship with both parents, which usually leads to some sort of joint custody arrangement.
Custody Mediation is Required
If you and your ex cannot reach a custody agreement between yourselves, then before you go to court you must complete mandatory child custody mediation. San Diego’s Family Court Services (FCS) now refers to this as “child custody recommending counseling.”
Both parents meet together with an FCS counselor for about two hours (unless there is a restraining order or abuse allegations). This is an opportunity to develop a parenting plan and allocate responsibilities with input from the counselor. If you reach an agreement, the counselor will notify the court. If you cannot agree, then the counselor makes his/her own written recommendation to the court. You can challenge the recommendation in court if needed. The counselor’s recommendation is not a binding decision; it is up to the judge to ultimately decide.
Answering All Types of Custody and Visitation Questions in San Diego
Our San Diego custody attorneys have the skill and experience to help you resolve any custody-related challenge you face, such as:
- Custody and visitation for divorcing parents and unmarried parents
- Modification of existing custody and visitation schedules
- Handling situations where a parent wants to move away from San Diego or leave California
- Stepparent adoption
- Custody issues involving special needs children
- Situations involving domestic violence and abuse
- Parental alienation
Contact a San Diego Child Custody Lawyer Today
Kaspar & Lugay, LLP is a trusted resource for parents facing child custody and parenting time issues. To schedule a free consultation with a lawyer from our San Diego office, please call 415-366-3253 or submit a request online anytime.