Keeping the Focus on the Child’s Best Interests
Few issues in a divorce are as contentious as determining primary physical custody of your children. Though California divorce laws favor joint physical custody if practical, one parent will have primary physical custody in the majority of cases. In regard to legal custody, both parents will generally have a voice in the major decisions regarding their child’s education, healthcare, and other matters affecting their welfare.
If you and the other parent cannot agree on physical custody, our attorneys can discuss your options, including mediation or litigation if necessary. Mediation is where a neutral party meets with you and the other parent in a non-adversarial setting to attempt to resolve differences and arrive at a possible compromise. A Kearney Baker lawyer will explain the process with you and help you with the goal of working out a satisfactory resolution.
Factors that a court considers in determining physical custody include:
- Identity of the primary physical custodian
- Details of the visitation hours and days of who will pick up and drop off the child
- Holiday schedules and attendance at special family and community events
- Attendance at school functions and sporting activities
- Transportation arrangements for after-school activities
- Possible use of mediation in case of disputes
- Arrangements regarding communication between the parents in situation involving the child’s education, religious, medical, athletic or other issues.
We will help tailor the plan so that your schedule and that of your ex-spouse or partner are accounted for and that your child has a comfortable routine that will foster stability and growth.
Modification of an Existing Order
If you wish to modify an existing custody order, we will work with you to see if a significant change in circumstances has occurred since the original order went into effect. This usually concerns a change in employment status, a serious illness or injury, or some other major event significantly affecting the child’s safety or well-being. Whether you want the modification or are resisting it, we will counsel you on working out a satisfactory resolution or litigating the dispute if necessary.
Violation of a Custody Order
Violation of a custody order can be a major offense, especially if the child is abducted or taken out of the state without consent. Other violations often concern visitation or a parent refusing to allow visitation by the other parent out of spite or amid allegations of abuse or safety concerns. Do not take action on your own even if you feel the other parent’s conduct is detrimental to the child or you could be held in contempt of court. Call an attorney from the Kearney Baker Law Office if there has been a custody order violation.
California, like most states, has statutory guidelines by which you can determine the level of support for a non-custodial parent. The guidelines consider the number of children, both parents’ income and disposable income, and the visitation routine; the more quality time that a non-custodial parent spends with a child, the less they may have to expend in support payments. Another factor is who is paying the child’s medical expenses, education, transportation, child care, and music, athletic or other costs.
Sometimes, a parent may suspect the other is not fully disclosing income sources or feel that visitation with the child does not make the grade as quality time. Our attorneys can discuss these and other issues regarding your obligations and those of the other parent to give you a fair analysis of your situation.
Modification of Child Support
To modify a child support order, there must be a significant change in circumstances, such as loss of employment, an incapacitating illness or injury, a special needs condition of the child that just became evident, or a dramatic increase in income for one of the parents. You and the other parent can also mutually agree on an amount or arrangement outside of the guidelines so long as it is court approved. You have to show that you were aware of what the guidelines state, that you were not coerced into the agreement, that you are not receiving public benefits and that it is in the best interest of your children.
An agreement can include provisions on who will pay for certain expenses, such as child care, uninsured medical costs, transportation, education or other expenditures to benefit the child.
You may incorporate a visitation schedule in a parenting plan or within your marital dissolution agreement. You cannot deny visitation to the non-custodial parent at any time without a court order or because the parent is behind on support. You can modify your visitation between yourself and the other parent but any material changes may create problems if there is a court order in effect and one parent decides to object.
Visitation under certain circumstances may be supervised or be at a certain safe location. These arise because of abuse or safety issues involving the visiting parent or if there is a history of violence or drug abuse. As with modifying other family law orders, any requested changes in court-ordered visitation must be the result of a significant change in circumstances.
Call the Kearney Baker Law Offices today to discuss your custody, child support and visitation issues, either pre- or post-divorce. No issue is off-limits to us or too complex. With over 60 years of combined experience, our attorneys are attuned to your needs, emotions and concerns. We will give you the highly skilled legal representation that our past and current clients have come to expect.