Positive Child Custody Arrangements for Everyone Involved
Determining child custody is an emotional process but establishing a schedule and coming to an agreement will help you and your former spouse work together to raise your children. Unfortunately, child custody can be one of the most contentious aspects of divorce.
At Pedrick Law Group, APC, it is our goal to help you establish child custody that causes minimal disruption to you and your kids. We will help you resolve issues and create a plan that works for move-aways.
Our attorneys are highly experienced and wish to shield your children through this process. We will protect you and your loved ones if a threat of violence is involved. Gregory J. Pedrick is a certified family law specialist with over 25 years of experience guiding California families to solutions. He and Susan L. Goldenberg, who has over 27 years of legal experience, can assist with all child custody matters, including:
- Determining parenting time
- Establishing paternity and child support
- Child custody modifications
- Child move-aways and relocation
Even when a divorce is proceeding without a lot of disputes, the fact is, when it comes to child custody matters, emotions run high. Parents want what is best for their children, but because of the emotions running rampant during the custody process, they often lose sight of what “right” is. In Orange County, there is a specific process which occurs pertaining to child custody matters during divorce.
Types of Child Custody in Orange County
Most people who have not gone through the pain associated with a divorce are unfamiliar with how the court system views child custody. Parents often believe “custody” is merely who the child lives with. Here is how the legal system views child custody:
- Physical custody — this is the most common form of custody parents disagree over. Physical custody determines who the child will live with. It is important to remember that physical custody may be the responsibility of both parents. In fact, joint custody is generally viewed as a default in Orange County. In terms of physical custody, what this means is whenever possible, the child spends as near to 50 percent of their time with each parent.
- Legal custody — is typically awarded at 50/50 between the parents. This means both parents are equally involved in decision making for the child or children. This pertains to education, religious upbringing, medical decisions, and other life-decisions which pertain to the child. Even if one parent is awarded sole physical custody, legal custody is seldom awarded to only one parent.
Keep in mind, when one parent has sole physical custody, there is an expectation that an agreement between the parents which should be worked out as it pertains to visitation. The relationship between the parents may be contentious but that should never impact the children’s ability to have a healthy and loving relationship with both parents.
Orange County Child Custody Process
In general, in disputed custody cases, there is a process which can be broken into stages. However, remember no two child custody matters are the same so there may be additional stages warranted depending on circumstances. With that said, these are the typical stages:
- Request for order — when parents cannot agree on custody matters, one or both will put a request before the court explaining why they believe the best interest of the child would be served by having the child live with them. The parent should have a family law attorney working with them to ensure their case is strong. Emergency orders may be requested if one parent feels the child is in danger. Parents should be wary of making mistakes which could cause them problems after filing for custody of their child.
- Mediation and investigation — Orange County courts require parents to attend a mediation session when there is a dispute over custody of their children. These sessions are designed to encourage the parents to resolve their dispute without lawyers being involved in the process. Furthermore, this type of mediation often allows parents to make their decisions rather than leaving the final say up to the courts. Either parent is allowed to request an independent custody evaluator review their cases. This review would include a review of records, interviews, and testing as well as other evidence. The report will be submitted to the court for consideration for when a judge makes their final decision.
- Judgment by the court — if mediation is unsuccessful, a judge will make a final decision about custody. It is worth noting that while the judge’s determination will be final, there are circumstances when the decision may be appealed. There are also options to ask for reconsideration should circumstances warrant a second look.
As a parent, you want to ensure your voice is heard when there is a custody dispute. However, it is always important to remember both parents have responsibilities to their children and even once a custody dispute is resolved, there should be a parenting plan in place for the children.
Factors Which Impact a Judge’s Decisions Regarding Child Custody
In Orange County, when parents cannot reach an agreement regarding custody of children, the courts will make the final decision. This decision is not made lightly, and the best interest of the child or children will always be a major consideration. Parents are generally surprised to learn what factors do not impact this decision including race, sexual orientation, religion, age or disability of a parent. These factors cannot be taken into consideration.
Some factors the judge will use to make a final decision include how involved a parent is in the upbringing of their children. Just because both parents work does not mean they are not involved in the children’s upbringing. Keep in mind, when parents are willing to encourage a strong relationship with the non-custodial parent and show a willingness to involve the other parent in decision-making for the child, the court will view that favorably.
We all understand there are instances where children have a closer bond to one parent over the other. Generally, when the court is deciding about physical custody, this will be taken into consideration. The child’s ties to their school, how close the children’s relationships are with friends in the neighborhood, and their community ties may also be factors which will be considered.
When there are multiple children in the family, the court is often reluctant to divide children between parents. Splitting arrangements where some children live with one parent while others live with the other is rare because it is generally in the best interest of children to live full-time with their siblings.
The child’s safety and health is always a major consideration for the court. Should a parent be credibly accused of a violent crime, or a sexual crime, even if they have yet to be tried in a criminal court, the family court may deny that parent custody of the child. A parent’s lifestyle may also be considered if there is a potential safety factor for the child such as a parent who has a history of drug or alcohol abuse.
While the courts do allow the children to have a say in which parent they would prefer to live with, this is typically only allowed if a child is believed to be emotionally mature enough to verbalize that preference and the reasoning behind it. Generally, children under 14 are welcome to speak to the court, but their preferences may not be considered as heavily as a child over 14.
Reducing the Impact of Divorce on Children
Ending your marriage can have a significant impact on your children. Constant arguing and fighting can be detrimental to your relationship with your kids and make it difficult to repair the relationship in the future.
Our lawyers can help you through this process so you know what steps to take and what resources are available to you and your children. We help you keep a practical mindset through a difficult time of upheaval. Planning for the future and keeping an open mind will help us develop a parenting plan that works for everyone.
The transition after divorce is hard on everyone, especially your children. It is important to keep the best interests of your children in mind throughout this process. Every parent’s relationship with their kids is different. Both parents need to convey that their children will be taken care of, the divorce was not their fault and that they will always be there for them.
Let’s Get Started on A Solution Together
Regardless of which parent the child winds up living with, there must be a good plan in place for regular visitations with the non-custodial parent. The importance of a relationship with both parents is always a factor when discussion child custody in Orange County. Whether you are just starting the process of divorce, or you and your spouse have reached an impasse pertaining to child custody, having an experienced family lawyer to discuss these matters with is important. Contact Pedrick Law Group, APC, at 949-388-8682 to schedule a consultation today to get your questions about the Orange County child custody process answered.