How to prepare for Custody and Visitation decisions

At Moradi Saslaw LLP, our family law attorneys recognize that child custody and parental visitation are the biggest concern for many clients. We help you create a custody and visitation plan best suited for your family and negotiate on your behalf to reach an agreed-upon plan.

What factors are considered when awarding custody?

In California, the court makes decisions on child custody and visitation based on what it believes is in the best interest of the child. The court takes into account a number of factors in making this decision. In addition to protecting the child’s health, safety and welfare, a custody arrangement must encourage frequent and continuing contact with both parents, unless there has been a history of child abuse or domestic violence.

What if parentage is in question?

Establishing parentage is often an essential part of the custody and visitation process, as well as child support and move-away cases. Parentage must be established (or confirmed) in order to petition for child custody and support. In the state of California, unmarried fathers can assert paternity by signing a voluntary declaration of paternity at birth and paternity can be established through a blood test. Moradi Saslaw lawyers are skilled at assisting our clients as they attempt to establish or disprove parentage, both in the process of a divorce or between unmarried parents.

What types of custody arrangements are there?

In a custody order, the court will make a decision on both physical and legal custody. Physical custody refers to which parent the child is living with at any given time. Legal custody refers to the right to make decisions about the health, education, and welfare of the child.

Additionally, the court will make a decision on whether the parents have joint (shared) or sole custody. Child custody can be awarded in a number of ways:

1. One parent has sole physical and sole legal custody.

Sole physical custody means that the child will reside with one parent and the noncustodial parent will usually have visitation rights as ordered by the court. Sole legal custody means that only one parent will have the exclusive right to make decisions regarding the child’s residence, health, education and welfare; the other parent lacks such rights.

2. One parent has sole physical custody; the parents have joint legal custody.

Sole physical custody means that the child will reside primarily with one parent and the noncustodial parent will usually have visitation rights as ordered by the court. Joint legal custody means that both parents share the right and responsibility to make decisions regarding the child’s health, education and welfare.

3. The parents have joint physical custody; one parent has sole legal custody.

Joint physical custody means that the child will reside with both parents in a way to ensure frequent and continuing contact with both parents. However, that does not mean the child’s time must be equally divided with each parent. Sole legal custody means that only one parent will have the exclusive right to make decisions regarding the child’s residence, health, education and welfare; the other parent lacks such rights.

4. The parents have joint physical custody and joint legal custody.

Joint physical custody means that the child will reside with both parents in a way to ensure frequent and continuing contact with both parents. Joint legal custody means that both parents share the right and responsibility to make decisions regarding the child’s health, education and welfare.

Modification of Custody Orders

Because of California’s interest in the welfare of minor children, the court always has jurisdiction to make or change custody orders, even after a divorce is finalized. In fact, changes to custody agreements are quite common as children become older and families change.

The decision to modify an existing custody order will depend on whether the previous order was a temporary order or a final order. If the previous custody order is a temporary order, the court will determine what would be in the best interest of the child. If the previous custody order is a final order, the court will determine whether there has been a sufficient change in circumstances that so affects the child that modification is necessary to the child’s welfare.

Such changes in circumstances include (but are by no means limited to):

  • Change/proposed change in residence of one of the parents. (This may require a motion for a “move-away order”)
  • The desire of an older child to increase or decrease visitation
  • Alteration of the child’s school schedule
  • Evidence of child abuse

You need an experienced child custody attorney to help you ensure your rights as a parent. The team at Moradi Saslaw uses our knowledge of the law and expertise to assist parents in coming up with the best possible custody arrangements for their children.

Need help negotiating the right custody and visitation situation for your family? Call Moradi Saslaw today.