San Francisco Child Custody & Visitation Attorney
If you are going through a divorce and you have minor children at home, deciding how custody will be shared (or not) is likely one of the biggest concerns on your mind. Every family dynamic is unique, and there are many different ways to address child custody and visitation in a California divorce. The family law attorneys at Cardwell Steigerwald Young LLP have extensive experience handling divorce cases in counties throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, and we can guide you toward a resolution that meets your needs and your children’s needs and works for your unique family. Contact our experienced San Francisco child custody & visitation attorneys today.
California Courts Decide Physical and Legal Custody
Under California law, the courts decide two different types of child custody in a divorce. There is physical custody, which refers to the child residing with and being under the supervision of a parent. There is also legal custody, referring to the right and responsibility to make decisions relating to the health, education, and welfare of a child. Courts can order joint custody where physical and legal custody is shared by the parents in some fashion, or the court can order sole custody to one parent or the other. Courts can also order one form of custody to be joint and another single, determining where the child will live and who is responsible for making day-to-day and major life decisions. As noted earlier, there are numerous different ways custody can be arranged to meet the particular needs of the family.
California courts start with the premise that mother and father are equally entitled to custody, and the public policy of the state is toward frequent and continuing contact between the children and both parents, with each parent sharing in the rights and responsibilities of child-rearing. That said, the health, safety and welfare of children are the court’s primary concern when making any orders regarding physical or legal custody or visitation. The best interests of the child is the lens through which the court will view every potential child custody order.
So how do the courts decide what is in the best interests of the child? Judges are not limited in the relevant factors they can look at, but they are required by law to consider all of the following:
- The health, safety and welfare of the child
- Any history of abuse by one parent against the child, the other parent, or certain other persons
- The nature and amount of contact with both parents
- The habitual or continual illegal use of alcohol or drugs by either parent
- Who is better able to deal with any special health needs of the child
- The parent to whom the child is more emotionally attached
- The importance of the child’s current ties to the present home, school and community
- Each parent’s parenting styles and capabilities, including their ability to provide a stable environment, give the child time and attention, and communicate constructively with the other parent
- The child’s preference regarding custody matters, if the court deems the child mature enough to offer reasonable, helpful opinions
When the court grants sole physical custody to one parent, it does so subject to the power of the court to order visitation time with the other parent. Courts are required to grant reasonable visitation periods when shown that it would be in the best interest of the child. If the child is especially young and attached to the custodial parent or has become estranged from the non-custodial parent, the court might order that visitation be supervised by the other parent or a third party. If there is a protective order in place, the court can require that visitation be supervised or decide that visitation should be suspended, limited or denied, depending on the nature of the underlying acts and how long ago they occurred. If you are seeking or opposing visitation with your children, whether supervised or unsupervised, CSY Family Law Group can put together a strong case demonstrating the best interests of the child and advocate on your behalf in court.
Helping You Get the Child Custody Plan You Want
We’ve talked a lot about the courts deciding custody issues, but it’s important to know that the parents are free to resolve these issues between themselves outside of court. In fact, working out custody schedules and parenting plans through a negotiated agreement is really the preferred approach in most instances. Marital agreements are more likely to address the true needs of each family member and present a practical, workable approach to custody and visitation. If the parents can’t work together or if they want different things, then litigation and court resolution may be appropriate, but before that happens, our team can help you work out a plan with your co-parent, resolve conflicts, and come up with a solution that works for you and your family and will be approved by the court. If litigation does become necessary, CSY Family Law Group is your voice in the courtroom looking out for your rights and the best interests of your children.
Contact Cardwell Steigerwald Young LLP Today
Whatever your needs regarding child custody and visitation, the family law attorneys at Cardwell Steigerwald Young LLP have the knowledge, skills, experience and dedication to advise and represent you with a high level of quality legal services. Contact our San Francisco child custody & visitation lawyers today.