Child Custody Lawyer in Huntington Beach serving all of Orange County
Barb McNamara is an experienced child custody attorney serving Orange County and surrounding communities. She provides assistance with visitation and parenting plans. Your children mean everything to you. There’s nothing you wouldn’t do to make sure they are healthy, happy and safe. But now your relationship with your spouse has ended, and you’re worried about the impact the separation will have on them. What’s even more frightening is thinking:
- “Will my children be taken from me?”
- “If they don’t live with me, how often will I be able to see them?”
- “Will I still be able to make decisions about their welfare?”
- These are most likely the types of questions that have you tossing and turning at night.
What Type of Custody Do I Want?In the state of California, there are two forms of child custody orders: Legal and Physical. In all custody cases, the Family Court has the discretion to order a custody and visitation plan that is in “the best interest of the child” (California Family Code §3040(a).)
Legal custody refers to the parent or parents who will be making the decisions
regarding your children’s health, education, and overall welfare. For instance, who will decide which pediatrician or dentist they go to? Will they attend private or public school? Which extracurricular activities will they participate in?
“Sole Legal Custody”
If you file for “sole legal custody” you are asking the court to appoint you to be the ONLY person allowed to make these decisions. Your former spouse will not be able to intervene in such matters without your consent.
“Joint Legal Custody”
If you file for “joint legal custody” this means that you are agreeing to share the right and responsibility to make decisions about your children’s welfare with your former spouse.
In the vast majority of cases in California, the judge will rule in favor of “joint legal custody” in order to guarantee that the children will have contact with both parents on an ongoing basis.
However, if there is a situation in which one parent is not involved in the child’s life at all, resides in another state, or is “unfit” due to domestic violence, substance abuse, or other crimes, “sole custody” would be awarded to the other parent.
Physical custody determines with whom the children will live with the majority of the time.
“Sole Physical Custody”
If you feel strongly about having your child live with you exclusively, then you would file for “sole physical custody.” A parent will most likely choose this option if they believe an alternative living arrangement is unsafe or unhealthy and generally not in the best interests of the children.
“Joint Physical Custody”
“Joint physical custody” refers to a situation in which both you and your former spouse agree to share 50/50 responsibility for your children’s living arrangements. In this instance, both of you and/or the courts will determine a schedule that benefits your children.
Can My Child Choose Who They Want To Live With?
According to California Family Code 3042, the court will consider the wishes of the children if they are of an emotionally mature age with a capacity to reason.
If you have children that are 14 years old or older and they would like to address the court regarding custody or visitation, they may do so, unless it is considered not in their best interests.
However, there is nothing in this section of the amendment that states children younger than 14 can’t address the court.
Visitation/Parenting PlanChild Visitation is referred to as a “custody and visitation agreement” or a “time-share,” essentially a parenting plan that includes how to share time with the children as well as how to make decisions about their health, education, and welfare.
Types of VisitationSchedule Based — this type of visitation provides a child with a structured routine, detailing the times he/she will spend with each parent. These schedules also include holidays, vacations and special occasions (birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day). Reasonable Visitation — this type of visitation is more open-ended and allows the parents more flexibility to decide what works with each of their schedules. Supervised Visitation — this type of visitation is used when the child’s safety and well-being requires there to be someone else present: either yourself, another adult you trust, or a professional agency.
No Visitation — in this instance, it is best that the child has no contact with the parent. It has been determined that this person would be physically or emotionally harmful to the child, even if supervised.
The Parenting Plan is a very important document that you and your partner will write together in order to establish a list of “family rules” to abide by. By agreeing to a certain set of guidelines/responsibilities it enables you to avoid conflicts with one another in the future.
Try to be as thorough as possible — kids need consistency and structure. No one knows your children better than both of you. When creating the plan, make sure to take your children’s ages, personalities, and sensibilities into consideration.
Some things to include:
- Daily routines
- Healthy diet
- Medical care
- Bed time routines
- Disciplinary Style
- Introducing new relationships
I can help you outline a parenting plan that can be submitted to the court for approval that supports your parenting beliefs and wishes, in order to ensure that your children have stability whether they are spending time with you or your ex-spouse.