Meta: Child custody is one of the most difficult aspects of divorce, but working with a Beverly Hills custody attorney can make everything run more smoothly.
If you’re like most parents, your primary focus is what’s best for your children – and when you’re divorcing, you know that you need to work out a child custody agreement that serves your kids’ best interests. It’s usually best if you and your ex can work out an agreement on your own, without the court’s intervention. If the judge in your case agrees that you’ve come up with a fair arrangement that’s good for your children, he or she will sign off on it and it will become a legally binding order.
However, if you and your spouse can’t reach an agreement, the judge will step in and make a decision. Most parents want to avoid custody battles – they’re incredibly difficult to go through, both emotionally and financially. However, there are some cases in which it’s necessary to work with a family law attorney in Beverly Hills who’s willing to fight hard for you and your children.
Full Custody vs. Joint Custody
There are two types of child custody in California: Legal and physical. In most cases, parents share both types of custody.
Legal custody refers to a parent’s right to make important decisions for his or her child. Those decisions can involve things like health care, education and religious upbringing.
Parents can share legal custody, or the court can award it to only one parent. In joint legal custody, both parents share the rights and responsibilities of making important decisions for the child. In sole legal custody, only one parent can make decisions about the child’s health, education and welfare.
If you have legal custody, you can make decisions about your child’s:
- School or child care
- Religious activities and upbringing
- Mental health
- Medical care, such as doctors, dentists, orthodontists and other professionals – except in emergency situations (the parent who physically has the child can make emergency medical decisions, even if he or she does not have legal custody)
- Travel and vacations
- Sports and extracurricular activities
Even if you share legal custody, you don’t have to agree on every decision. You can still make decisions alone. However, it’s best if you can communicate with each other and try to make decisions together – that way, you can avoid problems and stay out of court.
Physical custody refers to where the child lives most of the time. Physical custody can be joint, or it can be sole or primary. In joint custody, the child lives with both parents. When one parent has sole or primary custody, the child lives with one parent most of the time and typically visits the other parent.
Joint physical custody doesn’t have to be 50-50. In fact, it’s often difficult to divide a child’s time that precisely. If one parent has the child more than half of the time, he or she is the primary custodial parent.
Visitation or Time-Share
Many parents create a detailed plan about how and when they’ll each spend time with their children during and after divorce. Other parents don’t go into much detail, but in most cases, it’s best to be as specific as possible to avoid confusion. Visitation is typically:
- According to a schedule. The parents come up with a schedule that prevents conflict and confusion. This type of schedule includes specific days and times the children will be with each parent. Your child custody lawyer will advise you to include holidays and special occasions in your schedule, as well. It’s common for parents to take turns on holidays, such as giving one parent Thanksgiving in even-numbered years and the other in odd-numbered years. Special occasions, such as birthdays, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day can also be addressed.
- Reasonable. Sometimes visitation orders don’t go into specific details about when the child will be with each parent. These orders are flexible and allow the parents to work out times and days themselves. These types of agreements usually only work when the parents get along very well and have committed to co-parenting. However, they can be a disaster when the parents disagree or misunderstand each other, and that’s not good for the child involved.
What is Supervised Visitation?
The court may require supervised visitation when a child’s safety and well-being are at risk. Supervised visitation requires another adult to be present when the parent has the child; it can be you, someone else or even a professional agency.
You are allowed to disagree with what your spouse wants, but your Beverly Hills child custody lawyer may advise you to try to work out a reasonable agreement on your own or with the help of a mediator. If you cannot, the judge will send you to mediation through Family Court Services or another court-related program.
If you and your ex still can’t reach an agreement, you’ll both meet with the judge. Typically, the judge will decide on a schedule then. When a judge must determine how to allocate custody, he or she is required to look at what’s best for the child. The judge in your case will consider:
- Your child’s age
- Your child’s health
- What emotional ties exist between each parent and the child
- Whether each parent is able to care for the child
- Whether there’s a history of family violence or substance abuse
- What ties exist between the child and his or her home, school and community
Sometimes the judge will appoint a child custody evaluator to work on your case. This usually happens when the court has concerns about:
- Child abuse
- Substance abuse
- Mental health issues
- Questionable parenting practices that could negatively affect the child
This evaluation – called a 730 evaluation – can happen when the judge simply needs more input, as well, even if none of these concerns are present.
The evaluator, who you may have to pay, will complete the evaluation and put together a proposed parenting plan.
Guardian Ad Litem
The court may appoint an attorney for your child. This lawyer is called a guardian ad litem, and he or she is responsible for advocating for your child’s rights – and what’s best for him or her – in court.
Child Custody for Unmarried Parents
Unmarried parents have every right to spend time with their child, and the state of California recognizes that kids do best when they have healthy relationships with both parents. However, in some cases, you must establish paternity before you can get a court to issue a custody order that grants you time with your child. For many people in this type of situation, the best course of action is to work with a Beverly Hills custody attorney who can ensure you have the documentation you need and that your petition is filed in a timely manner.
Do You Need a Child Custody Lawyer in Beverly Hills?
If you’re contemplating divorce, or if you’re an unmarried parent who needs to protect your children’s rights, we may be able to help you. Call us right now at 310-683-4623 or schedule a free case evaluation online. We’ll answer all your questions and get you on the right path.