Divorce can be a difficult and painful process, especially when the needs of minor children must be considered above the desires of the parents. Are parents living separately? How long before the divorce is finalized? What happens in the interim? More importantly, where do the children stay, and with whom? How are the parents able to meet their children’s needs while going through the divorce process?
Types of Custody:
There are two types of custody: legal and physical. Joint legal custody means both parents are able to make important decisions on behalf of their children. Both parents have access to medical and school records and both can make necessary decisions in case of emergencies.
Joint physical custody means the children spend time with both parents, usually on a set schedule either stipulated to by the parties in writing or by court order.
If parents are unable to agree on how to share their children, one of the parties must file a Request for Order (“RFO”) asking the Court to set a custody and visitation schedule. The Court will then set a mandatory meeting with Family Court Services (“FCS”). A counselor from FCS meets with both parties to discuss their positions on child sharing. The FCS counselor is tasked with making recommendations to the Court, absent an agreement between the parties.
Factors to Consider:
California law requires the Court to make custody and visitation orders in light of the best interests of the children. Questions the Court will consider: Will the parent who has the children the majority of the time encourage frequent and ongoing contact with the other parent? How old are the children? What are their needs, schedules? Does a child have special needs?
Generally, the parents know their children’s needs. If at all possible, reach a parenting agreement that meets your children’s needs with the least amount of disruption but make sure your agreement is in writing and signed by both parties. Consider using a private custody mediator, someone who is versed in alternate dispute resolution focusing on child sharing and custody.
Your Child Comes First:
Try to set your personal differences aside when it comes to your children. The reason you are divorcing is because there are irreconcilable differences between you and the other parent. Your children should not be exposed to domestic disputes, especially those which lead to any form of violence. Nothing is more traumatic to children than to watch one of their parents walk off in handcuffs while the other parent stays behind in fear.
The law considers the safety and welfare of children at all costs. One incident of Domestic Violence can cause the police to contact Child Welfare Services, formerly known as Child Protective Services. Child Welfare Services can remove children from the custody of both parents if the circumstances are serious enough.
No one “wins” a custody issue. Focus on your children’s best interests. Your children look to you for guidance and security during the divorce process.
JWB Family Law can help you arrive at a reasonable parenting plan. We provide preparation for custody mediations and can help you resolve custody issues which may arise during this difficult time.
Call for a free one-half hour consultation with one of our experienced attorneys. JWB Family Law focuses on all aspects of divorce and provides you with expert legal advice.