Child Custody Options
Following divorce, an important topic of negotiation for couples with shared children is child custody. California offers the options of legal custody and physical custody, where legal custody regards to decision-making authority for the child on matters like healthcare and education, and physical custody refers to who the child resides with.
To determine a custody order, the judge will base their decision according to the “best interests of the child,” which includes factors like:
- the child’s age;
- the child’s health;
- the emotional ties between the parents and the child;
- the ability of the parents to care for the child;
- any history of family violence or substance abuse; and
- the child’s ties to school, home, and their community.
Parents can make their own agreements without the court’s influence, though the final agreement must be approved by the court. If the parents cannot agree on their own, though, the judge may order the couple to mediation with a mediator from Family Court Services. If the parents cannot agree in mediation, they will then go to court for the judge to make the final custody and visitation decision. So, if parents do not wish to default to a court decision, they should attempt to reach an agreement on their own or in mediation, and an attorney can better help facilitate this process.
Visitation agreements are often part of child custody orders. Visitation, also called “time-share,” addresses how the parent who has the child less than half of the time is allowed to spend time with their child. Like custody decisions, visitation orders will vary depending on the best interests of the child and the situation of the parents.
There are a few different forms of visitation available to parents. Scheduled visitation details the dates and times that the child will be with each parent, and schedules can include holidays, special occasions (e.g., birthdays, Mother's Day, Father's Day), and school vacations. Reasonable visitation is more open-ended and allows the parents to decide parenting time between themselves. This type of plan works best for parents who get along well and can be flexible and communicate well with each other.
Supervised visitation may be ordered when the child’s safety and well-being require that visits with the other parent be supervised by a third party, either due to a strained relationship between the child and the parent or unfamiliarity between the two. It is possible a court can order no visitation if it, even when supervised, would be physically or emotionally harmful to the child.
Questions About Your Family Case? Call (949) 264-0323.
If you have legal concerns about a family law matter in Costa Mesa, California, reach out to an experienced family lawyer immediately for legal support. Attorney Joyce Komanapalli Jones is a compassionate and understanding legal professional who can better help you navigate your family issue, whether you seek to file for divorce, negotiate custody, or discuss a visitation arrangement.