Child Custody and Visitation

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Our Attorneys have Hundreds of Satisfied Clients and Success Stories

Orange County Child Custody Lawyer

If you are looking for information regarding a child custody case and your rights, we are here to help. To schedule a no pressure, confidential initial consultation to discuss your options with an experienced attorney at California Family Law Firm, a top child custody law firm in Orange County, call us at 949-503-7200 or send us a message in the form at the bottom of the page. California Family Law Firm represents residents of Southern California for legal services in all child custody issues, including those related to visitation rights, child support, domestic violence restraining orders, attorney’s fees and costs, DNA testing (if applicable), and all other legal issues related to child custody cases. We are experienced in the legal process of child custody cases and can guide you through both high conflict contested child custody actions, drafting of an uncontested child custody agreement, and everything in between. How a case proceeds, the amount of time it takes, and the cost depends on not only you, but also your child’s other parent. You can discuss all child custody issues with your child custody attorney during your initial consultation. You will undoubtedly have questions about your parental rights and child custody case as you proceed, and we are here to help. Oftentimes, the legal process can be frustrating and confusing. Child custody legal proceedings may come at a time of uncertainty and sometimes instability. An experienced child custody lawyer at our firm will go over every step of your case, from drafting an initial letter to your child’s other parent advising of representation, to completing and filing all required Family Court forms and pleadings, to coordinating service of all required documents, to litigation or settlement of all issues. There are two different types of child custody in California, legal custody and physical custody. We will discuss both types.

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Unrecognizable Mother Taking her Daughter to School

Child Support

Oftentimes, when making child custody and visitation orders, the parent with more custody or a lower income will ask the Court to make or modify their child support orders at the same time. That topic is discussed more in depth here, but you should be aware that child support is primarily based upon each parent’s incomes, and the parenting time with each parent. All relevant incomes and timeshare percentage will be input into a calculator, and then the judge will make that guideline child support number its order the vast majority of the time. The judge will often also make an order for equal sharing of unreimbursed healthcare and childcare costs.

Legal Custody

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Legal custody involves decision-making rights of parents in their children’s lives. The vast majority of cases involve Court orders for joint legal custody, which the Courts define in Family Code section 3003 as “both parents shall share the right and the responsibility to make the decisions relating to the health, education, and welfare of a child.” When a judge makes an order for joint legal custody, Family Code section 3083 requires them to “specify the circumstances under which the consent of both parents is required to be obtained in order to exercise legal control of the child and the consequences of the failure to obtain mutual consent. In all other circumstances, either parent acting alone may exercise legal control of the child.” This means that day-to-day activities such as electronics usage, meals, and bedtimes are handled by the parent exercising their custodial time with the child unless the legal custody order states otherwise. Joint legal custody orders usually include orders specifying decision-making control regarding the child’s enrollment or disenrollment in school, childcare, extra curricular activities, or with medical, dental, psychological, or other mental health providers. They can also be uniquely tailored to your situation to give one parent sole control over limited issues, such as if one parent is unreasonably blocking the other from obtaining a passport for the child to travel for a vacation, or to allow the child to obtain their driver’s license. When one parent demonstrates poor decision-making ability or disinterest in the child’s life, the Court may order the other parent sole legal custody. In that scenario, the parent with sole legal custody shall be completely responsible for all decision-making regarding the minor child’s school, religious practice, medical and dental care, childcare, extracurriculars, and all other significant decisions in their lives. However, even when one parent has sole legal custody, that does not mean the other parent is completely shut out from the child’s records and information. In fact, Family Code section 3025 specifically states that “Access to records and information pertaining to a minor child, including, but not limited to, medical, dental, and school records, shall not be denied to a parent because that parent is not the children's custodial parent.” Your child custody lawyer will discuss individual provisions relating to legal custody with you and can tailor your legal request to the Court to address specific issues that have arisen in your case.

Physical Custody and Visitation

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Physical custody and visitation involve the actual time a parent spends with the child. Joint physical custody, most often referred to as joint custody, is defined in Family Code section 3004 as each of the parents having “significant periods of physical custody” “in such a way so as to assure a child of frequent and continuing contact with both parents, subject to Sections 3011 and 3020.” Practically, most Courts will define joint physical custody as when both parents have at least 30% parenting time with the child. Sole physical custody is defined in Family Code section 3007, as when “a child shall reside with and be under the supervision of one parent, subject to the power of the Court to order visitation.” Many parents believe sole physical custody means the other parent has no visitation time with the child, but it in fact is just a term that means less than approximately 30% parenting time with the child to the other parent, as the Court will oftentimes still make an order for at least some visitation. In making a child custody order, the Court will look at the status quo custody arrangement (who has been the primary caregiver, as well as the work schedules and availability of each parent), in addition to what the Court determines to be the best interests of the child by taking into account their health, safety, and welfare. The Court will also consider allegations of drug use, child abuse, and domestic violence. If there is a finding by a judge that one party has committed domestic violence against the child or other parent within the last five years, there is a presumption against that parent having joint custody according to Family Code section 3044. Pursuant to Family Code section 3042, if the child is 14 years or older, there is a presumption that the Court will consider the child’s wishes in making its order. The Court must consider if the child is at a “sufficient age and capacity to reason so as to form an intelligent preference as to custody or visitation” prior to considering their wishes. This means that even if your child is under 14 years of age, the Court still may consider their wishes. Generally, the Courts will consider a child’s preference in custody beginning around age 12. In Southern California, before making child custody and visitation orders, the Courts require that parties attend Court organized mediation, where attorneys are not allowed to attend. However, a child custody lawyer at our firm will help prepare you for this mediation, going over what to say, how to say it, and what not to say. The mediator will attempt to obtain agreements from the parties on as many custody issues as possible. If no agreement is reached, then in certain counties the mediators will issue recommendations to the Court. Orange County and Los Angeles County are not recommending counties, but Riverside County, San Bernardino County, and San Diego County are, so if no agreement is reached in those counties, a report will be issued and the judge will have an opportunity to review and consider those recommendations in making their decision at your child custody hearing. At your child custody hearing, the judge will weigh all of the relevant factors discussed, and the Court will then make an order for a parenting plan. The most common visitation schedule for joint custody is a 2/2/5/5 schedule, where one parent has either every Monday/Tuesday or every Wednesday/Thursday and the other parent has the remaining weekdays, and the parents alternate Friday/Saturday/Sunday. Alternatively, if the parents want to limit their time away from their child to no more than three consecutive days, there is the option of a 2/2/3 schedule, where one parent has Monday/Tuesday and the other parent has Wednesday/Thursday in the first week and then the next week they switch weekdays, while also alternating Friday/Saturday/Sunday. In the case of one parent having sole physical custody, the visitation schedule ordered to the other parent is oftentimes every other weekend plus a mid-week Wednesday visit. Finally, if there are corroborated allegations of drug abuse or domestic violence, the judge may order that parent’s time to be supervised by either an agreed upon third party or a professional supervisor. It is extremely important to choose the best representation possible when custody of your child is at stake. Your child custody lawyer will discuss your history of parenting, allegations of abuse, the status quo (currently practiced schedule) and many other factors in crafting your child custody or visitation request to the Court, tailoring the pleadings to your unique situation.

Litigating Child Custody at Different Stages of Your Case

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Whether child custody is being litigated in initial divorce proceedings, paternity proceedings (in which the parents were never married), or after a Judgment in your case, a child custody lawyer with California Family Law Firm is here to help. When orders are made prior to Judgment in a divorce or paternity case, they are legally “temporary” orders and can be changed upon a showing of the best interests of the child. Upon Judgment, a judge may make an order that your orders are “final” orders (also called Montenegro orders) that can only be changed upon a “change of circumstance.” This often means a significant change in the lives of the parents or child, such as a change in work schedule, one parent moving a significant difference, or a parent getting married, but can mean the passage of time from the last order, if it is long enough, usually at least five years or more.

What should you do when the other parent violates the custody or visitation order?

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The first step is to talk to the other parent. Whether the violation is intentional and malicious or simply a mistake, judges will want to see an attempt at co-parenting prior to bring the issue to Court. If the initial attempt to resolve the issue is unsuccessful, putting that attempt in writing to document your proposed resolution can be beneficial to any future Court proceedings. If the other parent still refuses to comply, a child custody lawyer from our firm can write a letter to the other parent directly, or their attorney if they are represented, to clearly outline the violation, attempted resolution, and potential consequences. Whether it is a custody dispute or a dispute over school, medical, or extracurricular decisions, if all else fails, a child custody attorney at our firm can file a legal request to modify your orders, and/or hold the other parent in contempt for their violation of the orders. If we reach this option, we will walk you through this procedure and what to expect in this scenario. Whether it is a custody dispute or a dispute over school, medical, or extracurricular decisions, if all else fails, a child custody attorney at our firm can file a legal request to modify your orders, and/or hold the other parent in contempt for their violation of the orders. If we reach this option, we will walk you through this procedure and what to expect in this scenario.

Legal Representation You Can Trust

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At California Family Law Firm, we have the years of experience required to successfully litigate your case. Our law office will help guide you through the often overwhelming legal process of a child custody case to help achieve the orders and results that are uniquely tailored to your and your children’s best interests. We do this through a cost-effective strategy of addressing the most immediate legal issues in your case first, and then methodically working with you through each remaining step of your case. If you are looking for a child custody attorney that can strongly represent your interests and protect your rights, who will help you fight back when needed but also be a voice of reason during settlement negotiations, who will be fully prepared for your Family Court hearings and trial, look no further than a child custody lawyer at California Family Law Firm. Our law office is conveniently located in Irvine, although we serve those located throughout Orange County in Irvine, Newport Beach, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Huntington Beach, Garden Grove, Fullerton, Orange, Costa Mesa, Mission Viejo, Westminster, Lake Forest, Buena Park, Tustin, Yorba Linda, Laguna Niguel, San Clemente, La Habra, Fountain Valley, Aliso Viejo, Placentia, Cypress, Rancho Santa Margarita, Brea, Stanton, San Juan Capistrano, Dana Point, Laguna Hills, Seal Beach, Laguna Beach, Laguna Woods, La Palma, Los Alamitos, Villa Park, Anaheim Hills, and all surrounding areas. We also serve those in Los Angeles County, and Riverside County. Strong legal representation near you is not only important, but vital to your case. We are available to schedule a no pressure, confidential initial consultation to discuss your options. Call us at 949-503-7200 or send us a message in the form below to set up your consultation with an experienced family law child custody attorney at California Family Law Firm. Disclaimer: The information above does not establish an attorney-client relationship and is for informational purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice. There are many factors that might influence or change advice specific to your case following a consultation. Contact California Family Law Firm at 949-503-7200 to speak with an experienced family law attorney in order to obtain legal advice specific to your individual case.

Family Law Case Testimonials

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(1) An attorney at California Family Law Firm won a contested “move away” trial awarding full custody to a father returning from military service following being stationed overseas for several years in order to move across the country with his children. (2) A parent who wanted to modify their child custody order retained our office to request more custodial time with his children. He had been faithfully exercising every other weekend with the children for years, but wanted to be a part of their every day lives. An attorney with our office was able to obtain joint physical custody orders with a 50/50 visitation schedule after a contested hearing. (3) An unmarried mother in a domestic violence situation sought our office’s assistance in determining the rights of her children’s alleged father. We successfully assisted her in placing her and the children in a safe location and gaining the custody rights she sought. (4) In another case, a father who was unable to locate his child’s mother retained our office. Through discovery, we were able to locate the child’s mother in another country. We worked with local authorities to have legal papers served through the Hague Process, and won custody rights for our client.

(5) A client retained our office after learning that a mother alleged that he was the father of a child he was unaware existed for many years. Through negotiation, we reached a mutually agreed settlement between him, the child’s mother, and the mother’s husband, each of whom sought to assert their visitation rights. (6) An attorney with our office was retained by a client who had recently discovered that he was not the biological father of the child he had raised as his during his marriage. We advised him of his rights and reached an outcome that he was fully satisfied with. (7) We have negotiated successful dismissal of numerous cases of restraining order requests against those accused of domestic violence by the other parent in order to gain the upper hand for child custody purposes. At California Family Law Firm, our attorneys have litigated virtually every aspect of child custody and realized success on every type of issue, from quickly reaching negotiated settlements to litigating highly contested custody matters.

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Strong legal representation near you is not only important, but vital to your case. We are available to schedule a no pressure, confidential initial consultation to discuss your options by either phone, video, or in person.

949-503-7200 19200 Von Karman Avenue, Suite 454
Irvine, CA 92612.