Compassionate and Assertive Representation to Safeguard Your Parental Interests
Child custody disputes are one of the most difficult family legal issues to negotiate. After all, few parents want to spend less time than they can with their child, and the situation grows even more complex when you are facing a new opportunity in life that takes you farther away. An experienced child custody lawyer can help you strategize an effective and favorable custody arrangement in mediation or, if the circumstances require it, in litigation. Whether you seek to co-parent in Pleasanton or have questions about moving away with your child, our firm can help.
Schedule an initial consultation with Ham Family Law, P.C. to discuss your legal options with a compassionate and assertive child custody lawyer.
Parents can be awarded legal and/or physical custody. Legal custody refers to a parent’s legal decision-making authority, such as regarding things like the child’s education, healthcare, and upbringing. Physical custody is with whom the child will reside.
Legal and physical custody can be shared jointly between co-parents, in which case they should establish a parenting plan for when the child will reside with each parent. In other cases, only one parent may be granted sole physical custody (the primary custodial parent), while the other parent who has less than 50% of the time with the child will be granted visitation.
Types of Visitation Arrangements
The visitation schedule will depend on the child’s best interests (below) and the situation of each parent. California offers the following types of visitation:
- Scheduled visitation – parents can build a detailed visitation plan with a schedule detailing the dates and times that the child will be with each parent including how holidays, special occasions (birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, etc.), and vacations will be shared
- Reasonable visitation – these are open-ended arrangements without a specified schedule like above that allow parents to work it out between them; this is best for parents who are communicative and collaborative
- Supervised visitation – when the child’s safety and wellbeing require that visits with the other parent be supervised, the court may order visitation to be supervised by the primary custodial parent, another adult, or a professional agency; this may be ordered in cases where a child and parent need time to become more familiar with each other
In some situations, the court may decide not to allow visitation at all. This is typically the case when the other parent suggests physical or emotional harm to the child, such as if they have a history of domestic abuse.
The Child’s Best Interests
As discussed above, the child custody and visitation arrangement in California will be decided based on the child’s best interests. Even if parents come up with their own agreement, they must submit the proposal to the court for approval.
The court will base its custody and visitation decision based on the following factors impacting the best interests of the child:
- the child’s age;
- the child’s health and medical needs;
- the emotional ties between each parent and the child;
- the child’s ties to school, home, and community;
- the ability of each parent to care for the child;
- any history of family violence or substance abuse.
If the child is 14 years or older and mature enough to express a reasonable preference, the court may also consider their preference when deciding on the custody arrangement.
Naturally, things change over time. A parent might not stay where they have always been, such as if they have been offered a new job in a different city. According to California law, a custodial parent has the right to change residences or move away if the move will not interfere with the child’s rights or best interests. However, such a move will impact the existing custody order, so there is a legal process for formalizing this move.
The custodial parent wishing to move away with the child must send a notice at least 45 days before the proposed move in order to work out a new custody arrangement with the other parent. The nonmoving parent will have the right to file an objection, however, to the custodial parent’s relocation proposal and ask the court for a custody modification.
If a parent objects to the move, a judge will schedule a relocation hearing. Note that the judge will not block the move simply because the move will be difficult for the child; the objecting parent must also be able to show that the relocation would be detrimental to the child and that a change in custody is more appropriate. Some factors the judge will consider when determining whether to grant a change in custody are:
- the distance of the proposed move;
- the custodial parent's reasons for relocating;
- the child's need for continuity and stability;
- child's relationship with both parents;
- any harm that may result from a change in custody;
- any harm to the child's relationship with the nonmoving parent that may result from the move;
- the parents' relationship with each other, including their ability to communicate with one another;
- the child's emotional, physical, and educational needs and how the move will address them;
- the child's extended family relationships in their present community and the new location;
- any other factor deemed relevant to the child's interests.
For more information about navigating your child custody dispute in Pleasanton, CA, reach out to Ham Family Law, P.C. Our firm is prepared to negotiate your case in mediation or take your case to court if the conflict escalates. We also know how to handle move-away cases and can advocate assertively for your parental rights and move-away rights.
Schedule an initial consultation with Ham Family Law, P.C. to get started on your custody dispute today.
Caroline is an amazing lawyer. She was well prepared for my case and was even complimented by the Judge on her preparation. Her professionalism and compassionate demeanor helped my family through a very emotional child surname change case.