For most parents, the hardest part of a divorce is determining child custody. Because you want what’s best for your children, and because you and your ex may not see eye-to-eye on what that is, you may need to work with a child custody lawyer in Beverly Hills who understands what you’re going through, and what to do to get you and your kids the best possible outcome.
Working With a Child Custody Lawyer in Beverly Hills
Working with a child custody lawyer helps ensure that your voice is heard, and that someone is fighting for what’s best for your children. In many cases, often with the help of child custody attorneys, parents are able to reach an agreement that makes everyone involved reasonably happy. Sometimes parents work with mediators to reach agreements. However, in some cases, parents are unable to reach agreements at all; in those cases, the courts must step in and make a custody determination.
The Best Interests of the Child
When it comes to child custody, the law in California is very clear: the child’s best interests come first, always. Whether you and your ex come to an agreement on your own, you work with a mediator or the judge in your case makes a child custody determination, the best interest of the child is what’s most important.
The courts follow two guiding policies when determining child custody:
- The health, safety and welfare of the children must be the court’s primary concern
- Children benefit from frequent and continuing contact with both parents
Sometimes, when a child is mature enough, the courts can consider his or her wishes for child custody. The law doesn’t specify an age, but the older (and more mature) a child is, the more likely the court is to consider the child’s preferences.
Having Your Voice Heard in Court
The courts must also consider which parent is more likely to encourage a healthy relationship between the children and the other parent. That includes frequent and continuing contact. The courts find it very unfavorable when one parent takes actions that interfere with the child’s relationship with the other parent. Your attorney can fight hard for you and your children, ensuring that the courts understand the scope of your concerns (and the reasons you have those concerns).
Child Custody: The Basics
There are two types of custody in California: legal and physical. Parents can share either or both types, or the court can award one parent legal custody and both of them physical custody. In some cases, only one parent gets legal and physical custody. Your child custody lawyer will be able to explain how the law applies in your situation, and he or she will fight hard to do what’s best for your kids.
Joint Custody vs. Sole Custody
Joint custody means that both parents share in the legal rights and responsibilities to their children. Sole custody means that only one parent has those rights and responsibilities. It’s not unusual for a court to award one parent legal custody but allow both to share physical custody, but it’s common for parents to share joint legal and physical custody. That’s because the courts recognize that children benefit most when both of their parents are actively involved in their lives.
Legal custody refers to the right and responsibility of a parent to make important decisions for a child. This type of custody can be joint (where both parents share) or sole (where only one parent has the right and responsibility to make decisions). Parents who have legal custody make decisions about their kids’:
- Education, including what schools they attend and what type of elective educational services (such as tutoring) they need
- Religious activities, including which religious institution, if any, they attend, as well as the holidays they celebrate
- Psychological or psychiatric care, or other types of mental health counseling and therapy needs
- Routine medical procedures and preventive visits, including those with doctors, dentists, orthodontists and other health professionals
- Extracurricular activities, such as sports, summer camps and clubs
Physical custody refers to where the child lives and spends time. In joint physical custody, the child lives with both parents; in sole (also called primary) physical custody, the child lives with only one parent and visits the other parent.
When parents share physical custody, it doesn’t mean that kids have to spend exactly half their time with each parent. In most cases, kids spend a little more time with one parent than the other, it’s very difficult to divide time that way. When the children are with one parent more than half the time, that parent is the primary custodial parent.
Custody and Parenting Time: What Your Lawyer May Advise
California law requires divorcing parents to come up with a child custody schedule. For the most part, moms and dads can come up with their own schedules, after all, they know what’s best for their own families. Your child custody attorney can help you draft a plan that works for you, your ex and your children.
However, in some cases, cooperation is extremely difficult (and sometimes impossible). In cases such as those, the court may order parents to visit a mediator to come up with a solution; if that fails, the court can order an investigation and use the findings of that investigation to rule on child custody without the parents’ input.
Mediation and Working With a Child Custody Lawyer in Beverly Hills
You can choose to work with a mediator on your own (before the judge in your case orders you to). Your child custody attorney might even suggest that you work with an outside professional so you can work out the details of your parenting plan.
When a judge signs a child custody order, he or she also signs a child support order. This monthly obligation, which one parent pays the other parent, is designed to help cover the costs of raising a child. Typically, the parent with primary physical custody is the one who receives the support. The paying parent usually has to pay child support until the child is 18 (but 19 if the child is still in high school and lives with the receiving parent).
California has a specific mathematical formula to calculate child support, but judges do have some leeway and can adjust the dollar amount if necessary. The factors that come into play under the child support guidelines are:
- The number of supported children
- What type of custody arrangement exists between the parents
- Each parent’s tax liabilities
- Whether one or both parents supports children from another relationship
- The child’s health insurance expenses
- Both parents’ mandatory retirement contributions and job-related expenses
- Other relevant costs (like healthcare, day care and travel between parents’ homes)
Do You Need a Child Custody Lawyer in Beverly Hills?
If you’re considering a divorce, of if your spouse has already filed, we may be able to help you. Call our team of child custody lawyers at 310-683-2623 to schedule your free consultation right now. We’ll answer your questions and help you develop a plan that helps you, and your children, start moving forward.
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