Los Angeles Child Custody Lawyers

An Emotional Process

In general, any child custody process is often the single most emotionally taxing aspect of any family law matter. While It is possible to regain lost assets, it is impossible to get back time lost with your children. You need a Certified Family Law Specialist with extensive family law experience on your case. The ideal attorney will have successfully handled thousands of custody cases and can use their experience to help you get the best possible results. 

Understanding the Child Custody Framework

Child custody can be a convoluted matter, whether it is in the context of a divorce, legal separation, domestic abuse or child abuse allegations, or move-away matters. Parental rights as well as children’s rights obviously hold top priority, but the state you live in also has an vested interest in the welfare of children. This could increase the quantity of participants involved in any child custody battle.

Apart from institutions that may carry a statutory responsibility to intervene, the court could go so far as to appoint a guardian as an agent ad litem, meaning that they will represent the child independently, depending on the age of the child. Independent representation gives the children the protection and opportunity to express their own custodial preferences. Due to children’s dependence on adults, courts may undertake swift protective measures on their own account, implicating due process rights of the parents.

The public policy of California State, thoroughly articulated in Family Code Section 3020, is “to assure that children have frequent and continuing contact with both parents” in the wake of a divorce or separation. That said, the state additionally has an interest in the well-being of minor children and denounces domestic violence and child abuse.

In situations which involve child abuse, domestic violence, or a threat to the child’s health and safety, in keeping with Section 3030, the courts in California may either deny custody or visitation rights. Also, in circumstances where one parent has abandoned the child, is unable to, or decides against taking custody, the other parent would be entitled to sole custody.

SOLE CUSTODY: PHYSICAL CUSTODY VS LEGAL CUSTODY

California Family Code draws a distinction between sole physical and sole legal custody.  The code also carves out visitation rights for the noncustodial parent. If a parent is awarded sole legal custody, that parent holds the exclusive responsibility for “decisions relating to the health, education, and welfare of a child.” Nevertheless, although the underlying concept of sole physical custody provides that the child will reside with one parent, the court has the power to order certain visitation arrangements with the other parent.

Some Child Custody Statistics

Pursuant to California law, the mother and the father (or, in some cases, the presumed father), “are equally entitled” to the custody of an unemancipated minor child. Nonetheless, according to the US Census Bureau, in 2009, only 1 out of every 6 custodial parents nationwide were fathers (17.8%). Interestingly, this number includes fathers who were never married to the mothers. Therefore, over 80% of custodial parents were females.  Of these, 36.8% of custodial mothers were never married. The total number of children in the US living in sole custody situations was 22 million.

No More Preferences for Mothers

According to law professor J. Herbie DiFonzo, the concept of a mother being the one that should play the dominant role in child rearing only became widespread in the middle of the nineteenth century. Back in the colonial era, the courts customarily awarded sole custody to the fathers, he says. That said, the idea that the mother of a child is the most appropriate parent to have sole custody when the child is very young, also known as the “tender years” theory, is no longer applied by the courts. The law in California requires judges to base their verdicts on the best interest of the child.

With this issue set aside, courts have broad authority when determining custody. For this reason, parents might want to think about resolving the issue by mutual agreement. This might help to avoid the uncertainty and the cost connected with the court process.

When making a decision to award sole custody, the court will render a decision by employing the “best interest of the child” benchmark. California Family Code § 3011  lays out the factors the court takes into consideration.  These include:

  1. The health and safety of the child,
  2. Any history of abuse, and
  3. Any other factor the court believes to be relevant.

Although the law permits the courts and the family “the widest discretion” (CA Fam Code § 3040) in nailing down the best possible arrangements for the child, it also necessitates that “the child’s need for continuity and stability” be considered and the “established patterns of care and emotional bonds” be upheld.

THE BEST INTEREST OF THE CHILD STANDARD

California courts take the following factors into account when figuring out the course of action that is in “the best interest of the child:” (CA Fam Code § 3011)

  1. The health and safety of the child;
  2. Any history of abuse by either parent;
  3. The nature and frequency of contact between the child and both parents;
  4. Any use of controlled substances, alcohol, or prescription drugs by either parent.

The custody decision may entail allegations or a decision that granting custody to a parent would be detrimental to the child. In this regard, § 3041 of California Family Code states that:

  • Any allegations of detriment shall not appear in the pleadings.
  • A court has the authority to exclude the public from the hearing on this issue.

While transparent and convincing proof (meaning, further than “mere” preponderance of evidence) is required in general, a finding of detriment to the child can be distinguished and viewed as separate from a decision that a parent is unfit.

The court could also order drug or alcohol testing. The test results are held as a sealed record, to be kept confidential, and without additional evidence, cannot be the sole basis for a child custody decision. The law additionally interditcs judges from giving a parent preference due to the parent’s sex. Also, the immigration status of a parent (or a guardian) is not relevant, when considering child custody.

JOINT CUSTODY ARRANGEMENTS

The term “joint custody” says that both parents partake in both legal and physical custody.  California Code lays this out as a situation in which “both parents shall share the right and the responsibility to make the decisions relating to the health, education, and welfare of a child.”

Joint physical custody necessitates that each parent is entitled to “significant periods of physical custody.” According to a Time Magazine article, a Swedish study that was recently published confirmed that children who reside in two households with each parent experience less stress and have fewer issues than children who reside with merely one parent in so-called split custody arrangements. This squarely contradicts the general consensus, which emphasizes the negative effect on a child on shuttling back and forth between two homes.

Among the rights children are entitled to is the right to parental care, but due to divorce, the right becomes limited; hence parents have to work out the issue of child custody. divorce does not halt the responsibilities parents have over their children; therefore, there is a need that a reasonable arrangement on the custody of the child is pursued through all relevant avenues. At Spodek Law Group, we hold dear the subject of child custody, and ours is to ensure that your interests in the custody of your child are addressed and argued before the relevant platforms with the intent of ensuring your child is placed in your custody.

The role of our attorneys in your case
Our firm is majorly a family law firm, and for over two combined decades in practice, we have internalized the value a favorable child custody decision holds to our clients. Over the years, through dedication to client matters, our team of attorneys has obtained favorable child custody orders even in cases where our clients never thought they had a chance. For us, our clients’ interests come first, and in a child custody matter, we are aware that nothing means the world to you more than an order giving you favorable child custody rights.

Therefore we put great emphasis on the pre-trial stage of each case. We understand the value of proper preparation, and it’s at the pre-trial stage that we craft our presentation of showing your good traits. Your ex-spouse might try to prove your incompetence as a parent, while they are at it, we always go far and beyond to ensure their negative attributes are also brought to the attention of the Court as a counter of their allegations. Our experience in the trial of child custody matters has enabled us almost to tell what arguments a former or estranged spouse is likely to present. Therefore, we prepare in advance the most admissible arguments that will help present a competent case. As usual, the child’s best interest takes precedence over every other principle, and ours is to help the Court see why it is in the child’s best interest that you are given custody.

Types of child custody
The type of child custody the Court will award in your case depends on the applicable law, prayers of each party, facts of the case, and the evidence presented by each party. The Court can either award the parties physical or legal custody, depending on what it deems fit. Once you reach out to our firm for your initial consultation, we will always take you through the types of custody so that you are aware on what to expect as the outcome of the Court or an out of court settlement; whichever medium you allow us to take in helping you resolve your matter.

Physical custody can either be joint or sole. Joint physical custody is often awarded, where both parents present themselves as fit, responsible, and willing to uphold their child’s best interest by all means possible. On the other hand, sole physical custody pays attention to the physical availability of the parents and the character presented in Court by each. Ours is always to present a case that can help you get the type of custody you anticipated. For example, if you hope for sole physical custody, we always ensure the evidence presented shows your best attributes and discredits the other party’s character.

Legal custody can also either be joint or sole. The Court can jointly grant both parties the right to make decisions on behalf of the child on matters education, health, etc. Where the Court deems fit, it can award sole legal custody to one party if, by doing so, it upholds the best interest of the child.

Alternative dispute resolution
At Berenji & Associates, we believe in the building of cordial relationships on behalf of the child. Therefore if you choose the option of an out of court settlement, we give you the platform to do so, but we let you live room for modification of the settlement in case parties disagree in the future.

Call our office today and consult for free, let us help you resolve your child custody dilemma diligently and timeously.