Divorce litigation can be more complex when children are involved. The Family Law court takes great care to ensure a child’s best interests come first in matters of child custody. The Law Office of Steven A. Leff has many years of experience litigating child custody cases with very favorable outcomes.
A parent with legal custody of a child has the right to participate in decisions about the child’s development and well-being, such as decisions about schooling and religion. A parent with physical custody lives with the child and personally cares for the child. In California, there is a strong preference for joint physical and legal custody, meaning a family court will attempt to give both divorced parents physical and legal custody of their child. However, in some cases, the divorcing parents or the court may decide that it would be in the best interest of the child for one parent to have sole custody. Mr. Leff is an experienced family law attorney who can advocate for a parents’ rights and wishes in negotiations and before the court.
What’s involved with Child Custody?
The court will determine each parent’s rights and obligations toward their children if the parties cannot agree on a parenting arrangement. The court will make decisions about your children if:
- you are going through a divorce (dissolution) and cannot agree on matters affecting the children
- you and the other parent were never married but one parent has asked the court for a legal order establishing the rights and obligations of each parent
- you are seeking a domestic violence restraining order and have children with the person to be restrained
How is custody defined?
Custody refers to the responsibility of caring for the children and planning for their future. If you have children with another person, the end of that relationship usually does not mean the end of your contact with that person. Together you should try to agree on a plan that is best for your children. There are many different types of custody:
- Joint custody means that both parents share physical and legal custody.
- Sole physical custody means that a child will live with and be under the supervision of one parent. In this type of arrangement it is common for the other parent to have visitation. Visitation refers to the time that a child spends with a non-custodial parent by mutual agreement of the parents or according to a schedule.
- Joint physical custody is defined as each parent having significant periods of physical custody with the child.
- Sole legal custody means that one parent shall have the right and the responsibility to make the decisions relating to the health, education and welfare of a child.
- Joint legal custody means that both parents shall have the right and the responsibility to make the decisions relating to the health, education and welfare of a child.
If you and the other parent cannot agree on a plan, the court will decide. The official legal standard is always the child’s “best interest.” The policy favored by the courts is that arrangement which allows for frequent and continuing contact with both parents. Before the court makes these decisions, parents must go through a process with Family Court Services called child custody recommending counseling (formerly mediation).