Whether you’re fighting to keep custody of your kids or want to prevent a child from spending time with an abusive parent, it can help to enlist the help of an experienced San Diego child custody attorney. At the Sachdev Legal Group, APC, our family law attorneys have decades of combined experience handling complex child custody matters.
We help our clients navigate difficult situations and fight to secure the best possible outcome for everyone involved.
In California, both parents generally have the right to be present and involved in their child’s life. This tends to be fairly straightforward when parents are married and/or involved in a committed relationship. Things can get complicated when parents get divorced. Child custody is very rarely split down the middle after a California divorce.
The state of California believes that it’s generally best to keep children in “frequent and continuing contact with both parents” after a divorce. As a result, parents are encouraged to design custody arrangments that allow children to spend quality time with both parents. If parents are unable to agree on custody, courts will, generally speaking, try to find an arrangement that keeps kids connected to both parents.
However, there is something that supersedes the state’s desire for “frequent and continuing contact.” The court will always do what it believes is in the “best interest of the child.”
Custody decisions in California must reflect a situation that’s in the best interest of the children. Family courts will consider several factors, as expressed in California Family Code Section 3011, when determining what’s in a child’s best interest. These include:
Courts will also consider the child’s age and health, ties to their school or community, or, in some cases, their own stated preference. Some children in San Diego County can have a say in how custody proceedings unfold.
A court might decide to revoke or significantly reduce a parent’s custodial rights if these (or other) factors might pose a threat to a child. The evidence doesn’t have to be overwhelming. A San Diego family law judge must simply determine that “granting custody to a parent would be detrimental to the child and that granting custody to the nonparent is required to serve the best interest of the child.”
Finding that a particular custody arrangement doesn’t automatically mean that a parent is unfit. It simply means that, because of specific factors, allowing a parent to have custody at this point in time will not be what’s best for the child. Like all other family law decisions handed down by a court, child custody orders can be modified if circumstances change in the future.
Child custody can be complicated. Here are the basic terms you need to know and understand.
There are actually two types of child custody in San Diego, CA – legal and physical.
Legal custody refers to a parent’s right to make decisions about a child’s life. Specifically, this involves making “decisions relating to the health, education, and welfare of a child.” When a parent has legal custody of a child, they reserve the right to decide things like where that child goes to school or the type of medical care they receive.
Physical custody refers to a parent’s right to spend time with and live with their child. Many times, physical custody is the hot button issue in San Diego divorce cases. Parents generally argue over who kids will live with, which is a dispute regarding physical custody.
Custody can be joint or sole. This refers to how custodial rights are allocated between parents.
Joint custody means both parents share custodial rights.
Joint Legal Custody: If parents have joint legal custody, both share the right to make important decisions regarding their child’s life. They have to embark on those decisions together and find a mutually-agreeable resolution.
Joint Physical Custody: If parents have joint physical custody, both share the right to have the child live with them. However, joint physical custody doesn’t necessarily mean that parents have equal custodial rights or that the child will split time evenly. It simply means that both parents have the opportunity to have the child live with them for a specific amount of time each year. Parents will be responsible for designing a timeshare custody arrangement to determine who has custody of the kids, and when.
Sole custody means that custodial rights are granted to one parent.
Sole Legal Custody: Sole legal custody means that one parent reserves the right to make all decisions about the health, education, and welfare of a child by themselves. The other parent has no legal right to do so.
Sole Physical Custody: Sole physical custody means that a child lives with one parent, and one parent only. The non-custodial parent may still have the right to visitation (which might be supervised or unsupervised).
How legal and physical custody are granted are separate and distinct issues. Parents might be granted joint legal custody of child. At the same time, one parent might be awarded sole physical custody of that child. It all depends on the specific circumstances of each individual case and what’s in the best interests of the children involved.
Custody is rarely split right down the middle. Life just isn’t that simple. For whatever reason, one parent generally ends up with a larger timeshare with a child than the other parent. This might be due to concerns of abuse, or simply because one parent has moved out of state.
The parent awarded more physical custody rights is known as the “custodial” parent. The parent awarded less time with a child is known as the “non-custodial” parent. This is true, even if custody is split 51/49.
Visitation refers to the time a non-custodial parent can spend with their child. There are different types of visitation in California, depending on the circumstances of each specific child custody case.
Scheduled Visitation: When parents handle custody decisions themselves, they typically have to draw up a visitation (or timeshare) schedule. This is an outline of when children will spend time with each parent. It might include things like vacation, holidays, or special occasions.
Reasonable Visitation: If parents are on good terms, they might agree to have a more flexible visitation arrangement. In this situation, there aren’t specific times or dates when kids have to be with each parent. Instead, visitation varies based on what’s best for everyone involved.
Supervised Visitation: If a court believes that a non-custodial parent might pose a threat to a child, a judge may order supervised visitation. This means that the non-custodial parent can’t be alone with the child. Rather, the custodial parent, trusted adult, or professional must be present during the visit.
No Visitation: Sometimes a court might believe that allowing a parent to have any physical contact with a child is dangerous. This might be the case if the parent suffers from addiction or has exhibited a history of domestic violence or abusive behavior. In these situations, the non-custodial parent might be denied to the right to visit with a child altogether.
Negotiating a child custody agreement can be challenging, especially during hotly-contested divorce proceedings. Hiring an attorney who has experience navigating these delicate and incredibly important situations can make a huge difference. At the Sachdev Legal Group, APC, our San Diego child custody lawyers know what’s at stake. That’s why we’ll stand by your side and help you fight for what you believe is best for you and your family.
We’ll help you work through child custody disputes in mediation. We’ll take your case to court if you and your spouse can’t see eye to eye on an arrangement. We’ll do whatever we can to help you protect your kids. Just give our law firm in San Diego a quick call to schedule a free, no-obligation case assessment today.