Deciding how to split time with the kids is the most emotional aspect of your divorce. When families have to physically separate, the assistance of a skilled experienced attorney is vital in helping you craft the best parenting plan. It is usually better to work with your spouse and/or his/her attorney to settle cases involving child custody and visitation issues. Going straight to court may not render the best result for you, your children or your family. Judges must adjudicate child custody matters using the best interest of the child standard. Per California Family Code 3011, best interest of the child considerations are based on health, safety, and welfare of the child; any history of abuse in the family; nature and amount of contact with both parents; substance abuse; and any other factors that have bearing on the issue of custody. The court must consider the above factors in making the decision about child custody. In some cases, the court will consider the wishes of your child if s/he is of sufficient age and can form an intelligent preference (Cal. Fam. Code Section 3042.) The statutory preference is to award joint physical unless the above factors are present and dictate a different result such as sole physical custody to one parent. In some circumstances, the court appoints a guardian if the best interest of the child is not to be in the custody of either parent. Assuming that it is in your children best interest to be in both of your and your ex-spouse's custody, you still have to figure out the best parenting plan/visitation schedule. Courts will focus on frequent and continuing contact with both parents. Logistics of work schedules, day cares, school, etc. also play a role. Prior to any hearing on custody or visitation, the court will require you to attend mediation. Although it is possible to reach an agreement at the court-required mediation, if you and your ex-spouse wish to avoid court altogether, an option to consider is a private mediation with a neutral. Often times, issues in the family such as abuse or high conflict prevent parties from reaching an agreement on parenting. However, whenever mediation can be considered, it is a wise move to keep parents in control of the outcome on custody and visitation.
Our attorneys at Zwierzchowski & Nguyen represent clients in custody/visitation proceedings in Long Beach, Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Pasadena, Torrance, Norwalk, and throughout Orange County.