Following a divorce or separation case, a court may grant one of the parents child custody, which is the legal term for the care, supervision, and upkeep of a child. Unfortunately, custody fights are common. You might need a Family Lawyer in Los Angeles to help you out. Consider one of our prescreened California Attorneys in your Cal Bar Attorney Search.

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Find A Family Law Attorney for Child Custody and Related Disputes

A parent's job is to raise their child and give them the basic essentials of life, such as a house, an education, health care, and a spiritual upbringing, whether religious or values-based. If there is a disagreement about which parent has the parental authority to raise the child and make these decisions, or if government officials believe one of the parents is incompetent to do so, the family courts or juvenile courts will decide who receives custody of the child.

Custody in the Eyes of the California Law

Legal Custody

Legal custody is generally a parent's right and authority to make key decisions concerning their child's life, such as health, education, religious activities, and so on. Both parents are usually given "joint" legal custody, which means that regardless of which parent the child lives with, both parents have the authority to make certain decisions (see "physical custody" below). The court can give sole legal custody to one parent in more uncommon circumstances, such as when parents are unable to make choices together or when one parent is deemed "unfit" to have legal custody.
In California, legal custody orders provide one or both parents the ability to make choices about:
  • Enrollment in a certain private or public school or daycare center, or departure from one.
  • The start or finish of psychiatric, mental, or other psychological counseling or therapy.
  • Participation in extracurricular activities
  • Selecting a physician, dentist, or other healthcare professionals (a parent does not need to have legal custody to take action in emergency situations)
  • Participate in specific religious rituals or institutions.
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Physical Custody

The phrase "physical custody" refers to which parent the child spends the most of his or her time with. One parent usually has "primary" physical custody, which implies the child spends the bulk of his or her time with that parent and is monitored by that parent. In such cases, the other parent frequently enjoys visitation privileges. If the child spends significant time with both parents, both parents have "joint" physical custody.
When deciding on physical custody concerns, a court will typically examine the following factors:
  • Working schedules
  • Accommodations for living
  • In the past, there has been domestic violence or harassment.
  • Other details specific to each case that will be taken into account in the child's best interests
The child's best interests are considered first and foremost when considering how physical custody will be shared, if at all.

Sole Custody

One of the parents will be the primary physical caregiver. In this situation, the noncustodial parent is frequently granted a flexible visitation schedule as well as the right to participate in shared parenting decisions.
Most courts are moving away from assigning sole custody to one parent in an effort to extend and expand the involvement of a divorced father in his children's lives. Assume, however, that one parent is deemed unsuitable owing to alcohol or drug abuse. If their new wife is undesirable, or they are accused of neglect or assault, the courts are likely to award sole physical custody to the other parent.
Unless the other parent is inflicting substantial harm to the children, you cannot pursue exclusive custody.

Joint Custody

While they have joint or shared custody, both parents share decision-making and/or physical custody of their children. Joint custody can be given if the parents are divorced, separated, or no longer cohabiting, or if they have never lived together.
Some cases of joint custody arrangements are as follows:
  • Both parents share custody of their children.
  • Physical custody is shared by both parents.
  • Physical and judicial custody are shared.
  • Although this is not always the case, it is common for spouses who share physical custody to also share legal custody.
  • When parents have joint custody, they normally come up with a plan that takes into account their work schedules, living circumstances, and the needs of their children. If the parents cannot agree on a schedule, the court will establish one for them. The most common practice is for the child to spend weeks at each of his or her parents' houses.
The following are examples of joint physical custody agreements:
  • Cycles of months, years, or six months alternate.
  • Weekends and holidays will be spent with one parent, while weekdays will be spent with the other.
Nesting, sometimes known as "birds nest custody," is a type of custody in which the child remains within the family home while the parents rotate moving in and out. The parents in this situation have their own separate homes.

Is it possible for me to have both physical and legal custody of my child?

You're undoubtedly aware that physical and legal custody are two different types of custody. They don't have to be identical, though. One of the parents may have sole physical custody while the other shares legal custody, for example. Both parents can have joint legal and physical custody. One of the parents may have sole legal and physical custody of his or her child, while the other has neither. The family court judge will assess what is in the best interest of the child while deciding on all forms of custody.

Do grandparents have any rights when it comes to child custody?

Grandparents are unlikely to gain custody of an infant if one of the parents is legally eligible to do so. Grandparents, on the other hand, have visitation privileges in some circumstances. If the following circumstances are met, a grandparent may petition the court for visitation with their grandchild under California law:
  • A previous relationship between a grandmother and a grandchild "engendered a kinship."
  • Grandparent visits must find the right balance between both the best interests of the child and the parent's right to decide regarding the child.

Parents Who Have Separated or Divorced

  • The custody arrangement is integrated into the divorce settlement if the child's parents divorce. The declaration states who the child will reside with, how the child will be visited, and who will support the child financially. You should only care about the child's well-being and will never put him or her in danger. You do not, however, intend to deny any child access to his or her parents (unless there is a valid reason, such as a history of abuse).

Parents who have never been married

  • If the child's parents were never married, most states immediately give custody to the biological mother. If the father wishes to have physical custody, he must take the proper steps. While an unwed father is unlikely to acquire custody of his child from a supposedly fit mother, the courts might favor him over friends, foster parents, or strangers who wish to adopt him.

In the Best Interests of the Child

When making a California child custody claim, the court must make a judgment based on the kid's best interests. The court will consider the following elements, in addition to any additional factors it considers relevant:
  • The health, safety, and well-being of the child.
  • Any record of domestic abuse by either parent or any other person seeking custody of one or more of the following:
    • Any child with whom he is linked by blood or affinity, or with whom they have had an emotional bond
    • a friendship, regardless of how short it may be
    • at least one of the parents
  • A parent or person seeking custody's family, current partner, or cohabitant, or an arrangement (dating or marriage) with the parent or person seeking custody.
  • Before considering allegations of abuse, the court may require substantial independent corroboration, such as official statements from law enforcement officials, child protective services and other welfare organizations, courts, medical centers, and other publicly or privately owned nonprofit organizations that provide services to sexual assault or domestic violence victims.
  • The amount of time you spend with both parents and the type of interaction you have with them.
  • Use of illegal narcotics on a regular basis, alcohol abuse on a regular basis, or prescription controlled substance misuse on a regular basis from either parent.
Before addressing these charges, the court may seek independent confirmation, such as written reports from law enforcement, courts, probation departments, social service agencies, medical facilities, recovery facilities, or other governmental or nonprofit organizations that might also provide drug and alcohol addiction services.

The Child's Preferences

According to California law, the courts must consider a child's decision on custody if he or she is mature enough to make one. While there really isn't any legal requirement for a specific age, it is reasonable to assume that the older the child is, the better equipped he or she will be to make an informed decision.
Unless the court determines that it is not in the child's best interest to testify, children over 14 years old, or children under 14 with sufficient capacity to develop an astute choice as to child custody as well as visitation, have been allowed to testify regarding their preference under California Family Code.
In reality, the court is more likely to conclude that testifying about a child's choice for one parent over the other is not in the best interests of the child. Because most family law courts are wary (if not hostile) of asking minor children to speak in court, a parent that submits such a request risks losing their credibility.

Having said all that, each situation does have its own set of conditions, and letting your child testify can help your case.

If the parents are previously married, California courts can make custody decisions solely on the child's best interests, not on a preference for one parent over the other. If the parents are not married, the child is in the mother's custody until paternity is established legally, which can be done through a paternity case or both parents submitting a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity.

What Are the Considerations in Calculating Child Support?

California has a statewide defined "Guideline" for calculating child support that is based mostly on each parent's income levels and time spent with the child. Except in extremely restricted instances, where the court may add a "hardship deduction" to the computation, the court is not entitled to order payments above or below the Guideline. The Guideline's estimation is based on the following factors:
  • Each parent's taxable profits or earnings
  • The number of kids the parents have in total.
  • The quantity of time spent by each parent with his or her children (timeshare)
  • The actual tax filing status of each parent (single, head of household, etc.)
  • Children from other relationships are given extra help.
  • Health-related expenses and other medical costs not covered by insurance
  • Union dues and statutory retirement contributions are both required.
  • Child care expenses

Hardship Deductions

A party can ask the court to remove a "hardship deduction" from his or her gross annual income when establishing his or her net disposable income if a parent is facing extreme financial hardship as a consequence of legitimate expenditures resulting from the following:
  • Extraordinary medical expenses or irreparable harm for which the parent is financially responsible
  • Natural or adoptive children from a previous relationship who share the parent's basic living expenditures
  • In the current circumstances, the hardship reduction cannot exceed the amount of child care provided by the parent.
Once it comes to child support orders, they might be modified if the circumstances that determine the estimate alter. When a parent changes jobs and earns more or less money, or when orders are amended so that the parents' allotted time differs from what was previously computed for child support, these orders are frequently revised.

When you're the parent who is responsible for paying child support, you should pay the full amount set in your present order until it is changed. Failure to make court-ordered contributions will result in an arrearages order if you lose your job and have no income. On outstanding arrears, interest is charged at a rate of 10% per year on the whole unpaid debt.

Counsel for Minors

You may think that what you're doing as a parent is for the benefit of your child. The feelings of a difficult divorce or custody battle, on the other hand, can impair your judgment at times. Parents and government officials may have differing opinions as to what is best for the child at times. Even if you don't believe your child requires legal representation, the court can assign a minor's attorney to aid the judge in reaching a decision.

In any matter involving child custody or visitation, California law requires that a "minor's counsel" be appointed. Divorce is a part of this. A child does not require legal representation in a custody case. In the vast majority of low-conflict cases, parents are willing to strike an agreement or file court claims for custody and visitation that are in their children's best interests. However, in higher-risk situations, like domestic violence, one parent is frequently set against an abuser who is only too willing to put their own interests ahead of the child's. A minor's counsel may be competent under California law if:
  • There is a lot of conflict between the parents, or they have a lot of legal issues.
  • As a result of the fight, the child is stressed.
  • Information about the child's best interests is available, but neither parent is inclined to present it.
  • Allegations of child abuse and neglect have been made.
  • Any or both parents is/are unable to create a safe, healthy, and secure home for the child.
  • A minor's lawyer may be able to shed light on specific issues in the case.
  • The court agrees that self-represented legal counsel is the best option.
In an abuse, neglect, or child abduction case, a mediator, lawyers, or prosecutors, as well as specialists providing custody recommendations to the court, may all request minor's counsel. A family law judge may also appoint an independent Family Law Attorney to represent a minor. Whether there are two or maybe more children involved, the court has the authority to appoint separate lawyers for each of them if their interests are different.

How Does Minors' Counsel Work?

A family court judge must make custody and visitation judgments based on the evidence provided in court. Regardless of how long a trial lasts, the proof is limited by the parents' priorities and their lawyers' access to information (some of which is often confidential). A minor's lawyer might assist the court by bringing to light facts and evidence that might otherwise go unreported.

Investigate Related Data

Once appointed, a minor's lawyer serves as a fact-finder on your child's behalf, irrespective of any parent's views or interests. Until the child reaches the age or the court cancels their appointment, they function as a neutral voice for the child. The California Family Law Attorney the judge by gathering evidence that would otherwise be unavailable in court. This could include things like:
  • Speaking directly to the child (without either parent present)
  • Interviews were conducted with teachers, doctors, and therapists.
  • Examining records from the school, such as report cards and discipline files.
  • Obtaining a copy of a patient's medical records
  • requiring minors to undergo physical and psychological examinations
  • Deliver fact-finding reports to the judge.
After a minor's attorney has concluded his or her evaluation, he or she will produce a report for the judge. In this report, the minor's attorney will raise questions regarding the child's treatment, analyze findings pertaining to the children's well-being, protection, and health, and offer an opinion on what is in the child's best interests. Because the minor's counsel has access to a more accurate image of the youngster's life, judges give these reports great weight when solving a child custody dispute between the parents.

Express a Child's Preference to the Court

California law compels family court judges to consider a kid's preference when determining custody and visitation if the child is of "appropriate age and capability to reason so as to develop an intelligent choice as to custody." Even still, it's unusual to see an infant testify in front of a court. Appearing in court to tell their parents or Custody Lawyer where they want to live can be overwhelming, even unpleasant, and can have a detrimental impact mostly on the child's relationship with their parents, depending on the child and the circumstances. In such circumstances, the minor's attorney will meet with the child individually to explore their interests before presenting those choices to the court in a way that respects the child's rights and wishes as well as the parent-child connection.

A minor's attorney, on the other hand, is not permitted to advocate for the child's wishes. They act as a neutral and unbiased third person, focusing on the child's overall circumstance rather than just their desires. It's a bad idea for parents to try to infer a child's interests from the words of a minor's attorney in court.

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Should You Seek Counsel for A Minor?

Choosing whether or not their child needs their own lawyer is a difficult decision for many parents. Normally, it is the parents' responsibility to pay for the child's legal counsel. The court will rule how those expenses will be shared. That implies that before scheduling a consultation, you should consider whether you can afford the additional legal fees that would ensue.

You may feel that by appointing a minor's attorney, you will acquire another champion on your side. The autonomy of a minor's counsel appointment, on the other hand, could come back to bite you unless you're 100% certain of the facts. Furthermore, if you make the appointment and pay the fees, the minor's lawyer has no obligation to you. That means that whatever part you play in your child's difficulties will be exposed. Before pressing for an appointment, talk to your own family lawyer about the potential bad consequences, and be absolutely honest about whatever the child or the experts who deal with them can say against you.

Even so, high-conflict custody fights can cause stress in the entire family, including your children. When it appears to be difficult to verify, scheduling a consultation with a minor's attorney can reduce your child's stress and guarantee that their needs are satisfied.

Paternity Lawsuits

Paternity is a critical legal topic in the circumstances regarding a father's right to see his children and his legal responsibility to support his children. Our prescreened California-based Lawyers will walk you through the entire process, regardless of what kind of paternity issue you have.

If you have questions regarding your parental rights or duties, our LA Paternity Attorneys can assist you with a number of paternity matters, such as:
  • Paternity tests
  • Children's visiting and custody rights
  • Children's assistance
  • Disputes over paternity
Modern DNA testing can determine a child's paternity with near-perfect accuracy, making it an important component in family court proceedings. If you believe your rights are being infringed in your current child custody or child support situation, you should get legal advice as soon as possible to protect yourself and your family. Today's DNA tests can establish or deny paternity with an accuracy rate of around 100%.

If you have been asked to pay child support but believe you are not really the biological father, or if you have been denied child custody or visitation, but you're not the biological father, our Los Angeles Paternity Attorneys can help.

Determination of Parentage

A paternity test determines whether a guy is the biological father of a child using DNA. DNA testing is virtually 100 percent accurate these days, and it may be done with blood or saliva samples. A paternity test can be requested by either the mother or the presumed father of a child if they so want.

What Is the Importance of Establishing Parentage?

Paternity ensures a man's legal rights and responsibilities to a particular child. A father will very definitely have to establish his paternity in court if he wants to spend more time with his children. On the other hand, in order to get child support from their children's dads, some mothers want proof of paternity.

A Paternity Lawyer in Los Angles can help clients with things like:
  • Child support is either paid insufficiently or excessively.
  • Child custody arrangements that are inequitable
  • Incomplete or inaccurate birth certificates
  • Paternity tests will benefit unmarried parents.
Without being legally married, a couple who has a child does not immediately have a formal custody agreement. If they want to establish parental rights over the child, they'll need to file a Complaint to Establish Parental Relations.

This judicial action will accomplish far more than establishing divorcing parents' visitation plans. Even if they never divorce, the couple must file this action to establish their legal rights to their child, particularly the father's.

Paternity Fraud

Every year, an unknown number of males are tricked into believing they are the fathers of their female partners' children. Many times, the males invest a significant amount of money and time in the education of these children since they regard them as their own.

When men realize they are not the fathers of the children they have been raising, paternity fraud can occur. If you recently found that the child you've been raising isn't yours, contact a California Paternity Lawyer.

Motives that are fraudulent. The possibility of further financial support from the parent is the most compelling reason for paternity fraud. In some jurisdictions, paternity fraud, like all other types of fraud, can be deemed criminal. It's also known as a civil injustice.

This is significant because fathers can sue their mothers for money spent on their children. Paternity fraud claims are frequently resolved using DNA tests. If the investigation indicates that the plaintiff is not the child's biological father, he may be freed from his legal and financial obligations to them.

It's important to remember that finding an expert Paternity Lawyer based in California is critical when taking legal action.

What does it mean to be an unfit parent in California?

A court can request a child custody examination to determine whether a parent is unfit. The evaluator can consider the following factors:
  • Previous levels of parental participation in the child's life;
  • How well the parent understands and responds to the child's requirements;
  • The feelings of a parent toward their child;
  • Whether or not a parent should establish age-appropriate limits;
  • What is a parent's response when he or she has a disagreement with the other parent?
  • A history of domestic violence or child mistreatment;
  • Whether or not prior history of drug usage exists;
  • If the parent has a mental illness or struggles, that puts the child's health in jeopardy.

Would My Ex Be Able To Harm Me Because Of My Social Media Posts?

In this day and age, our lives are streamed live on the internet. Depending on what you've shared on social media, it could be used against you. If you've made posts regarding drug use, heavy drinking, abuse, or other dubious behavior, a judge may refuse to give you physical custody.

Visitations Rights

A parent who's had physical custody of the child for a little less than half the time is said to be on "visitation." Visitation orders might vary depending on the best interests of the children and other circumstances. Visitation can be arranged in a variety of ways:

Visitation according to the timetable: A comprehensive visiting schedule, in most situations, benefits both the children and the parents by preventing conflicts and misunderstandings. A visitation plan would outline the times and days the children would spend with each parent, as well as any other visitation-related directives, such as travel to and from visits, holiday and vacation plans, and restrictions on criticizing the other parent in front of the children.

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Visitation that is fair and reasonable: Fair visitation directions are frequently open-ended and do not have a set schedule. Only when the parents get along and are prepared to be flexible in their parenting schedules can reasonable visitation orders be implemented.

Visitation under supervision: The court may order supervised visitation in circumstances where the kid's health, safety, or welfare demands it, or in some circumstances where the parent and child were separated and now need time to build a bond before spending time alone. A professional or a trustworthy individual (either a friend or family member) who has never abused a child may be required by the court to conduct supervised visits.

No visitation at all: This option is utilized when visitation may be physically or emotionally detrimental to the infant. Because severe allegations of child abuse are usually handled by other courts, "no visitation" orders in family court are typically imposed only temporarily while an investigation is ongoing or when an absentee parent shows no desire in forming or maintaining a relationship with the child.

What Effect Does Moving Out of State Have on Child Custody?

If the move does not harm the kid's best interests, the parent who has physical custody of the child may legitimately travel out of state with the child. If a parent plans to travel with their child for more than 30 days, California law requires them to notify the other parent in writing at least 45 days before the planned transfer so that the parents can work out a new custody or visitation arrangement. If the noncustodial parent opposes the transfer, he or she can file a relocation objection with the court and request that custody be changed.
In an interstate child custody dispute, your child's native state takes precedence.
California used to have its own set of rules for interstate child custody disputes. Parents frequently try to relocate their children to another state in order to provide them with a better-suited environment.

Since then, each state has implemented its own version of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA), with minor differences. This confines the jurisdiction of the child to the kid's home state and those states with which the child has a strong relationship. In future model legislation, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) granted preference to the child's home state.

California Child Support Laws

The amount of time each parent spends watching over/caring for the child and each parent's net disposable monthly income are used to determine child welfare in California. If the rules for calculating child support are insufficient in a particular scenario, the court has the right to diverge from them.

In California, the court can also adjust child support owing to a change in circumstances. The following are examples of what this would entail:
  • A significant change in one of the parent's income
  • A change in parent whom the child spent a large part of his or her time.
  • A change in the financial needs of the child (such as extraordinary medical or educational expenses)
After a divorce has been granted, child support payments administered by the Department of Child Support Services can be set up electronically, making the procedure more convenient for both parties. If child support payment becomes a problem, the Department of Child Support Services takes care of it.

Who is eligible to file a child support claim?

Any parent can seek child support orders by filing one of the following cases:
  • In the case of married parents, divorce, legal dissolution, or annulment;
  • Unmarried parents that have not filed a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity must file a Petition to Create Parental Relationship, generally known as a "paternity" lawsuit.
  • Petition for Custody and Support of Minor Children (for parents who are not married and have signed a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity).

Find A Family Lawyer in Los Angeles offers a Free Attorney Referral Service Certified by the California Bar Association that can refer a qualified Family Law Attorney for Child Custody and Other Family Law Cases. You can contact us via our 24/7 Live Chat or complete our submission form for a free initial consultation.