Child custody issues are some of the most complicated and emotional aspects of any divorce proceeding. While it is often in the best interests of all parties, including the children, to come to an amicable agreement about visitation and parenting responsibilities, this is not always possible. In these situations, it is vital to have legal advice, so if you are going through a divorce and have children, please call an experienced Pleasanton child custody attorney who can help you find the solution that is best for your family.
Who Makes Child Custody Decisions?
California family courts urge parents to come up with their own parenting agreement out of court, as this is often the best way to avoid strife and time-consuming court proceedings. However, even when families are able to create their own custody arrangements, the court will still need to approve it before the order can be finalized. Unfortunately, these kinds of arrangements are not always possible, in which case the court itself is required to step in and create a child custody plan.
What do Courts consider When Making a Custody Decision?
Before awarding custody, courts are required to create a plan based on specific factors, including:
- The health and safety of the child;
- Whether there is a history of abuse by one parent against a child or the other parent;
- The nature and amount of contact that the child has with both parents; and
- Whether there is evidence that one parent habitually uses illegal drugs or abuses alcohol.
After reviewing these factors as they apply to a specific child, a court will award both physical and legal custody. Physical custody involves where the child will actually reside, while legal custody refers to the right to make decisions regarding the health and education of the child. In many cases, judges order joint physical custody, which gives both parents equal access to the child. Similarly, joint legal custody means that both parents must share decision making responsibilities in regards to the child’s welfare. This type of arrangement usually requires both parents to actively communicate with each other, as each will need to consent to any major decisions regarding education, medical issues, and extracurricular activities.
These types of arrangements are not always workable, in which case a court will create a parenting plan that gives sole physical custody to one parent. However, this does not mean that the noncustodial parent will not have access to the child. California family law requires that, when it is in the child’s best interest, judges ensure that children have continuing and frequent contact with both parents, who should also share in the responsibilities of raising a child. For this reason, courts will create a visitation schedule that allows the noncustodial parent to have access to the child.
Although visitation orders vary based on a family’s specific circumstances, there are a few basic frameworks from which courts can choose. For example, a standard visitation schedule will set aside certain weekdays or weekends that the noncustodial parent will have custody of the child. These are the most common types of visitation orders. In situations where the noncustodial parent’s ability to keep the child safe is in question, the court will order what is referred to as supervised visitation. These orders also set aside certain times for the child to visit the noncustodial parent, but require that the child be accompanied by a supervising adult or professional agency. If a judge decides that allowing the child to visit the noncustodial parent would be harmful to his or her health, physically or emotionally, the judge will order no visitation. This is most common when there is a history of domestic violence or child abuse.
Call Today to Discuss Your Case With a Dedicated Pleasanton Child Custody Attorney
If you are considering a divorce and have questions about who will retain custody of your child, please contact the Law Office of James P. White at (925) 271-0999 to speak with an experienced attorney who can address your concerns.