Child Custody Lawyers

The goal of any child custody proceeding is to make sure that the court orders an arrangement that provides the greatest benefit to the child or children involved.

Although child custody orders can be modified when necessary, the outcome of a child custody proceeding can have far-reaching implications for both parents and children. Having custody of a child means much more than having physical control of that child — custody also confers certain rights and privileges on the custodial party. Discover several topics and issues that a child custody attorney can help you understand when you’re facing a child custody case.

Types of Child Custody

A custody order can involve two types of custody: legal or physical. Legal custody resides with the person or people who will make important decisions for the child, such as those involving medical care, welfare, and education. Physical custody, by contrast, resides with the person or people with whom the child will live.

Legal custody can be either joint or sole custody. With joint legal custody, both parents have the right and responsibility to make decisions about the education, health, and welfare of the child. With sole legal custody, only one parent has this right and responsibility.

Physical custody can be joint, sole, or primary. Joint physical custody means that the child lives with both parents. Neither parent might have to pay child support if both parents contribute equally to the costs of raising the child.

However, joint physical custody doesn’t necessarily mean that children spend their time equally between two parents. Commonly, the child will spend more time living with one parent than with the other, making that parent the primary custodial parent. With sole or primary physical custody, the child lives with one parent primarily, and the other parent often has visitation rights.

Best Interests of the Child Standard

California courts apply a “best interests of the child” standard when deciding child custody matters. In particular, the California code specifies that looking to the child’s best interests includes — but is not limited to — “addressing the child’s need for continuity and stability by preserving established patterns of care and emotional bonds.” The courts will consider several factors when determining a child’s best interests, including the following:

  • The child’s age
  • The child’s wishes, if the child is old enough to make these types of decisions
  • The relationship of the parents and other people who might affect the child’s welfare
  • The stability of the proposed living arrangements
  • The adequacy and duration of the child’s present living arrangements
  • The motivation and ability of parties to offer the child guidance, love, and affection
  • The child’s level of adjustment to the current living situation

Modifying Child Custody Orders

A child custody and visitation order is never permanent. Either or both parents might want to change a parenting plan for many reasons. For example, one parent might remarry, have other children, or accept a new job in a different city or state — and any of these factors might require the modification of a custody order.

If both parents agree to the proposed changes, they can adapt the existing order with an agreement. If the parents can’t agree, one parent might need to file a petition asking the court for a child custody order modification. The next step generally involves meeting with a mediator before participating in a court hearing.

Child custody matters are especially important because they involve more than money or property. You don’t want to enter custody proceedings without adequate guidance and representation. Whether you’re petitioning for legal or physical custody or you want to change an existing child custody order, we have a list of experienced child custody lawyers who can help you.