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San Diego Child Custody Lawyers

Determining Child Custody in California

One of the most emotionally wrenching aspects of a divorce and ending your marriage is the possibility that you will no longer live full time with your children. Child custody disputes can be terribly painful for parents and children alike. Although there was a time when custody of minor children was automatically given to the mother, that has changed.  If you think you may need legal representation in a child custody case, contact the experienced San Diego child custody lawyers at Boyd Law. Today, neither parent has an advantage over the other when seeking legal custody; the best interest of the children is the deciding factor.

Deciding on the best child custody arrangement is complicated and requires an in-depth analysis of the relationships among family members. If both parents are equally involved in parenting, in many cases, a court will award them joint physical custody. If not, the court will look at which parent is more actively involved in the children’s day-to-day lives, and will determine if the current child custody situation is working. A San Diego child custody attorney can help you navigate this complicated process.

What Is the Difference Between Physical and Legal Custody?

Child custody is a complicated legal matter in family law that is broken down into two types: physical and legal custody. In California, a judge may award one or both types to either parent. Both parents can have physical and legal custody (the most common scenario), or one parent may only have one type of custody over a child. Learn the difference between the two to fully understand your rights as a parent after a divorce case.

Physical Custody

Physical custody refers to the child physically spending his or her time with a parent after a divorce. A parent with physical custody has the right to spend in-person time with a child at his or her home. There are two types of physical custody awarded in San Diego: sole and joint. Sole custody is when only one parent has custodial rights. Joint custody describes shared custody between both parents.

Joint physical custody is more common than sole custody. The type of joint custody arrangement will depend on the case. The law generally acknowledges the best situation for a child is to divide time evenly between both parents; however, if a 50/50 split is not possible or convenient for a family, a judge might order a different type of division. One parent may have physical custody for the weekends, for example, while the other has custody during the week.

Legal Custody

Legal custody in California refers to a parent’s right to make important legal decisions for a child. These are decisions regarding health care, education, religion, discipline and insurance. In most custody cases, both parents retain legal custody over shared children. If, however, one parent has behaved in a way that shows he or she should not bear legal custody, a judge may temporarily or permanently take it away.

If one parent has sole physical custody, that may be the only parent with legal custody as well. However, this is not always the case. If two parents share legal custody but cannot agree on a major life decision for a child, they will have to attend mediation to reach an agreement. Some cases may even go before a judge if the parents cannot agree.

San Diego custody lawyers

When Is Sole Child Custody Awarded in San Diego, CA?

Sole custody means only one parent receives child custody in a divorce case. The other parent will not have any custodial rights. Sole custody is not a common arrangement in San Diego County as family law generally holds that a child is better off remaining in contact with both parents after a divorce. However, a judge in California may award sole custody if the circumstances point to this being what is in the best interest of the child. For example, if one parent:

  • Wishes to move across the country or internationally
  • Has a history of neglecting or abandoning the child
  • Is abusive or has been convicted of domestic violence
  • Is incarcerated
  • Has a substance use disorder
  • Has a mental health condition that makes him or her incapable of caring for a child

The noncustodial parent may or may not have visitation rights in a sole custody agreement. Visitation is a scheduled time in which a noncustodial parent can visit his or her children. Visitation may be supervised by someone such as the other spouse or a social worker if the noncustodial parent has a history of substance abuse or domestic violence.

Remember, you and your spouse have the option of sharing custody by creating your own parenting plan before the matter goes to a judge. If you and your spouse can agree on a shared custody agreement, a judge will most likely sign off on it, unless an investigation finds a reason to deny custody to one parent. If you cannot agree, the matter will go to court. This will come with the chance of a judge ordering a sole custody arrangement.

Factors the Courts Consider to Determine Child Custody

In order to determine the type of legal custody arrangement that will be most beneficial to a child, courts consider multiple factors, including these:

  • Whether one or the other parent has been the primary caregiver of the child
  • The parenting skills of each parent
  • The child’s closeness of the child siblings and extended family members
  • The environment in each home
  • The work schedule of the respective parents and child care arrangements in each household
  • If the child has special needs, which parent is better able to provide for those needs
  • The emotional stability and mental and physical health of each parent
  •  Whether substance abuse is an issue for either parent
  •  Depending on the child’s age, which parent he or she prefers to live with
  • Any history of domestic violence
  • Each parent’s ability to work cooperatively and to promote a positive relationship with the other parent, when contact is not detrimental to the child

If the divorcing parents can’t agree on a child custody arrangement, the court will order them to work with a Family Court Services Mediator, who will be examine the family situation in detail and then make custody recommendations.

Child Custody Mediation

If after mediation the parents still cannot resolve the issues of the custody dispute, they can request a court hearing, which may involve an evaluation by a psychologist, psychiatrist, or other family relations professional. Because of the high cost of these proceedings, it is usually preferable for the divorcing parents to enter mediation with a positive attitude and commitment to resolving the conflict. Being represented by a San Diego family law attorney with superior negotiating skills can help immensely.

Experienced San Diego Child Custody Lawyer

At the Boyd Law Firm in San Diego, we are passionately concerned with making the divorce process as easy for the children as possible. Our experienced San Diego family law attorneys and staff, along with our investigators, forensic accountants, family relations professionals, mental health experts, and trained staff will help you determine the best solution for your unique family situation, with the best interests of your children in mind. To learn more about how we can help you resolve issues surrounding San Diego divorce, child custody orders, visitation, and support cases, call Boyd Law today to arrange a complimentary consultation.