Child Custody Lawyers in Los Angeles
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, there are plenty of attorneys to help you. Visit the directory of custody attorneys to find someone to discuss your case.
Child Custody Q&A
Lovette Mioni, Esq. answers questions about how judges in Los Angeles tend to view child custody and things parents can do to make custody cases a little easier.
How do divorce proceedings with a child custody issue compare to divorce proceedings without?
Divorces with child custody issues are much more complex than divorces without minor children or in which the parties agree to a child custody issue. If you and your spouse cannot agree on a custody schedule, one party will have to file a Request for Order with the court with their reasons for asking for the custody order they are requesting. The other party will get a chance to respond and give their reasons in favor or in opposition to the request for custody. The judge will then make a child custody order at the hearing. In some instances, the custody orders being requested are more complicated and require a child custody evaluation to assist the court in making a determination for what custody orders are in the best interest of the child
Do you have suggestions for (potential) clients to prepare for the emotional and legal difficulties that come with custody disputes?
Taking a co-parenting class or going to co-parenting therapy can greatly assist you and your spouse in determining what custody schedule will work best for parties and the child involved. The more that is able to be settled out of court by agreement, the less the emotional and monetary cost of litigating child custody issues.
If you believe that you will not be able to reach an agreement on custody with your spouse, it is best to keep a journal or log of all the supporting information for why it is your child’s best interest for the court to order the custody you are requesting. For instance, if one party never attends any extra curriculars or school events for your child but is asking for 50% custody, you’d want to document all the missed soccer games and missed open houses or teacher conferences. This information would be very helpful to your case.
Is your advice different for men and women? Is your advice different for men and women in same sex marriages?
My advice is the same for both men and women or same sex couples. The laws were created to be gender neutral and are supposed to favor the best interest of the child, and not mother or father.
What concerns do your clients normally have when trying to get their desired outcome in custody matters?
Most notably, when parties are not able to agree on a child custody schedule, it’s because one parent views themselves as the primary caretaker. They are concerned the court will order 50/50 custody and the other parent doesn’t know how to properly care for the child. In these cases, if the other parent really doesn’t know how to care for the child on a 50/50 schedule, a step-up order, with custodial time gradually increasing may be an appropriate alternative. Each case has it’s own unique set of circumstances and concerns for parties. Its best to discuss your concerns with an attorney to see what can be done to obtain a custody schedule that will alleviate these concerns.
How would you describe the LA courts’/judges’ general view on child custody?
Courts like to see parents cooperating with each other and as close to a 50/50 schedule as possible with both parents playing an important part in the child’s life.
What factors can change a judge’s view?
They very much dislike when one parent acts as a “gatekeeper” to the other parent and limits the other parent’s custodial time. In fact, there is a family law code that says the court should favor the parent that is most likely to facilitate frequent and continuing contact with the other parent.
How common is it for a judge to consider children’s desires? Are children required to testify in court?
Once a child turns 14 years old, the court must take the child’s desires into consideration. However, the court does not have to agree with the child’s desires, they must merely take them into consideration. It may be that the child’s desires do not coincide with the best interests of the child.
Children are not required to testify in court and actually most judges will not allow it at all. If the child wants to be heard, often times the court will interview the child in chambers (not in open court) or will appoint the child his/her own attorney to interview the child and let the court know what the child has requested and the reasons for the request.
How do you approach child custody matters?
I start by asking my client what orders they want and them I ask then why they want those orders. We talk about what evidence they have supporting any allegations or concerns they may have. I then discuss possible scenarios and custody schedules. If we are able to settle the custody issues out of court, that is my preference as it allows my clients the most control over the situation. However, in some instances we are not able to settle the case and we will file a request for custody orders with the court to seek the custody orders my client would like to see implemented.