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Child Custody Attorney in Orange County, CA

Parents who separate or do not live together are often concerned about their parenting rights and duties in what is known as “child custody”.

Legal and Physical Custody

Custody can be “legal” and “physical”. Legal custody is what the parent has when he or she has the right to make decisions on important issues such as education, residence, travel, and health care for the child. Physical custody pertains to the right to live with the child. Parents can have joint legal custody while only one parent can have sole physical custody, or both can share legal and physical custody. If you are contemplating the end of a marriage or domestic partner relationship, it’s important to understand what your options are before making decisions on custody.

Visitation

A child may spend more time with one parent and see the other parent usually at a defined schedule in what is known as visitation. Visitation arrangements can also vary and the best ones are detailed plans that are customized to suit the needs and circumstances of the child. Creating the right visitation agreement that contains all the provisions suitable for your child’s situation can be a challenge. An experienced child custody lawyer should be consulted for advice and help in ensuring that the agreement contains all the essential details of an effective visitation agreement. At the Law Office of Landon C. Villavaso, our family law attorney has been helping clients work out visitation schedules and crafting visitation agreements that are appropriate in their situation. Contact us for more information on visitation and child custody.

Parenting Agreement

When parties are able to agree on a schedule for the child to spend significant time with each parent, a written parenting plan can best express the details of this decision. A parenting agreement made without a court order is binding, but for it to be enforceable against the other it’s important to submit the parenting agreement for the court to issue an order approving it. Talk to your child custody lawyer about drawing up a parenting plan for the other party to consider. After executing a parenting agreement, your lawyer can also help you obtain the necessary court order for its approval.

Court Order for Child Custody

Not all couples share the same views about custody and often need court intervention for them to resolve their child custody issues. The California Family Code requires the court to decide child custody matters based on the “best interest of the child.” This does not necessarily create a legal preference in favor of the child’s mother, regardless of the child’s age or sex. A parent may also not be deprived of custody on account of a physical disability, religious belief, sexual orientation, or a different lifestyle.

There is no hard and fast rule in deciding custody issues. The court must consider several factors such as:

  • The health and age of the child
  • The child’s ties to home, school, and the community
  • Each parent’s ability to care for the child
  • The emotional ties between the child and the parents
  • Any history of substance abuse in the family
  • Domestic violence

Importance of Child’s Wishes

In many situations, divorce cases become more challenging when parties are deadlocked on custody matters. At the center of the marital conflict are children who may be asked to choose the parent to live with.

Existing provisions of the California Family Code allows a child who is at least 14 years old to express his or her preference regarding custody or visitation and to address the court for this purpose. The child’s preference may have some weight in determining custody except when the expressed preference is deemed not in the child’s best interests.

Lowering the Age for Expressing Preference

Starting on July 1, 2017, a new law will take effect and will amend the Family Code by requiring the court to allow a child who is at least 10 years old to address the court and express his or her preference in child custody or visitation. For the child’s preference to bear some weight on the outcome of a custody case, voluntariness in addressing the court must be established. But the new law still retains the overriding consideration in all custody decisions; that the preference or choice of the child must always be in the child’s best interests.

Modifying Custody

Circumstances can change over time and parents may want to change or modify the terms of their custody or visitation award. The parent who intends to change a custody award is required to submit their proposed changes to the court that issued the child custody order. If both parents agree to the modification, the court may approve the new agreement. But when the other parent contests any modification of the existing custody or visitation agreement, the party proposing the modification must be able to establish that substantial changes in the circumstances warrant the applied modification.

Contested visitation or custody matters are complicated. Consult an experienced child custody lawyer who can help you understand the law and your rights.

In Mission Viejo, California, the Law Office of Landon C. Villavaso understands how child custody cases can be emotionally challenging for families. Our compassionate family law attorney will fight for your rights to access your child by either obtaining child custody or visitation, depending on your circumstances. Call us today at (949) 257-5188 to learn more about how we can help you.

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