If you and your spouse are filing for
divorce in the near future, your top concern will be the well-being of your children.
Where will the children live, and with whom? Will you try to share custody
evenly, or will the children live with one parent most of the time? Who
will pay child support, and who will deduct the children on their taxes
These are all valid questions, and you probably have even more. To help
shed some light on California’s
child custody laws, we are providing a basic overview on the topic. We encourage you
to continue reading about child custody and if you have further questions,
don’t hesitate to contact our Los Angeles divorce firm directly.
Parents Who Separate or Get Divorced
In California, parents can seek a legal separation or a divorce. In either
scenario, parents can ask the court to make child custody orders. With
a divorce, for example, a parent can ask the family court to issue temporary
child custody orders while the divorce is still pending in the courts,
and once the divorce is finalized, the court can issue permanent child
custody orders, which can be modified if the need arises.
When parents split and they have minor children, they must develop a plan
that outlines how exactly their children will be cared for, and where
they will spend their time. In California, this plan is called a “parenting
plan,” but it is also referred to as a “time-share plan”
or an “agreement.”
You and your spouse know your children better than anybody else. Obviously,
very young children and teenagers may have different needs, and no judge
will be able to know your children’s needs the way you do.
For these reasons, the family courts encourage parents to put their heads
together and create a parenting plan that is tailored to their children’s
individual schedules and needs.
After you split with your spouse, your children may be going through a
difficult time. That being said, you want to be open with your children
and give them a lot of love and understanding during this time of transition.
Many children go through anger and grief during their parents’ separation.
If your child displays any of the below behaviors, please understand that
it is normal and should improve with time.
- Depression – children may experience grief and overwhelming sadness,
especially initially, but this too subsides with time;
- Blaming themselves for the divorce;
- Shock that their parents are divorcing;
- Strong feelings of anger and resentment towards the parents;
- Trying to bargain with their parents to get back together; and
- As time passes, children begin to accept the divorce.
Once you have decided to divorce, you will need to ask the court for a
child custody order. How you go about obtaining a child custody order
will depend on whether you already have a family court case or you’re
starting one for the first time.
Asking the Court for a Child Custody Order
If you are married to your spouse or in a registered
domestic partnership, you can ask for a child custody order in one of the following cases:
1) annulment, 2) legal separation, 3) divorce, or 4) domestic violence
Assuming you are married or in a domestic partnership, you will more than
likely ask for a child custody order as a part of your divorce case. In
this scenario, you would open the divorce case and ask for
temporary orders for child custody and visitation while you’re waiting for the final divorce.
If you and your spouse have an open divorce case and you have an agreement
about child custody, you would write a parenting plan and ask the judge
to sign it so it can be incorporated into a court order. However, this
exact process varies from court to court.
Once a divorce case has been started, you can also ask for temporary orders for
child support and
Mediation for Parents Who Can’t Agree
If you and your spouse cannot agree on a parenting plan, you may be required
mediation before you stand before a judge. Some local courts require parents to go
to mediation before they have a court date.
In some courts, parents are required to attend an orientation before they
participate in mediation. The orientation is best described as a class
where parents are educated on developing a good parenting plan. Parents
are also briefed on how the court in their county operates, and they are
given access to additional resources if they need more help.
If you and your spouse or domestic partner have issues over child custody
and visitation, you may be able to resolve them with the help of a trained
mediator. If you are able to reach an agreement through mediation, the
mediator can help you draw up an agreement that the judge will be open
to signing. From there, the judge would make your agreement a court order.
If parents are not able to reach an agreement about child custody and visitation
during mediation, then the parents must attend a court hearing, and the
issue of child custody is no longer in their control.
If you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement through mediation, the
judge will have to make a decision for you, which is less than ideal.
Generally, when our clients are having trouble reaching an agreement with
their ex, we do everything possible to facilitate an agreement, so the
court won’t have to step in.
Learn more about child custody in California by contacting
Claery & Green, LLP – schedule your free case evaluation today!