Divorce can be an incredibly difficult experience for anyone, but the process is generally much harder for divorcing parents. When children are involved in a divorce case, they must be the primary focus of divorce proceedings. California family court judges must ensure the security and best interests of all children involved in the divorce cases they oversee.
While it can be extremely challenging for a divorcing parent, it is often necessary to understand that the child custody determination process may result in a different custody arrangement than they would have hoped to obtain. It can be difficult for divorcing parents to separate their personal issues with their spouses from their responsibilities as parents and accept the fact that their exes are important parts of their children’s lives.
Helping Clients With Complex Child Custody Matters
Legal disagreements over child custody are highly personal. Although child visitation issues often arise during the divorce process, reaching an agreement over visitation and parenting plans is much more about understanding the relationships between you, your former spouse and other members of your family than it is about money or property.
An experienced Sacramento child custody lawyer can help a client in this situation present the strongest possible case for custody and help their client navigate one of the most emotionally strenuous legal processes in the California family court system.
Should I Get an Attorney for Child Custody?
Child custody disputes that arise within wedlock are typically tied to divorce proceedings and generally straightforward. However, custody disputes between unmarried parents are challenging legal matters, especially for unmarried fathers who rarely have presumptive paternal rights over their child without the mother’s consent. Hiring legal counsel to assist in a child custody dispute is always a good idea, but it is especially important for unmarried parents facing custody determinations.
We’ll Work Together Every Step Of The Way
Finding a Sacramento family lawyer who understands you and your goals gives you a much better chance to establish the custody and child support arrangements you want. With a professional background in nursing, I have the instincts to guide you through the unfamiliar child custody legal process with sensitivity.
I am a solo practitioner so you will always deal directly with me, never an inexperienced lawyer or paralegal who might be unfamiliar with the details of your case. Whether you need an experienced Sacramento child visitation attorney to assist you with the entirety of your divorce proceedings or simply need guidance with a child custody determination or paternity suit as an unmarried parent, call my firm, Judy Ford, Attorney at Law. We are ready to assist you as your Sacramento child custody lawyer.
Can You Sue for Custody?
A child custody battle is a civil dispute that most often arises from divorce proceedings, but unmarried parents may eventually enter custody disputes as well. In the event a parent needs to secure custody but does not want a divorce, legal separation, or annulment, it is possible to file a Petition for Custody and Support of Minor Children that allows the court to begin child custody determination proceedings.
It is also possible, though rare, for a non-parent to sue a parent for custody. For example, if a child were raised by an aunt, uncle, grandparent, or older sibling for many years and the parent secures custody by default, the individual who spent years raising the child would have solid grounds for a Petition for Custody and Support of Minor Children. It is rare for a judge to grant custody to a non-parent unless the available evidence clearly shows that the non-parent is the more suitable guardian for the children in question.
Can I Negotiate Child Custody With My Coparent Privately?
Divorce mediation is one of the most popular forms of alternative dispute resolution for divorce. Mediation allows divorcing spouses to privately negotiate the terms of their divorce agreement. However, they cannot reach firm decisions on child custody or child support in this process. It is possible to privately negotiate a parenting plan, but a California family court judge must approve it before it can take effect. When couples litigate their divorces or unmarried parents fight for custody, the process will unfold before a judge who will make the final custody determination.
What Do Judges Look for in Children Custody Cases?
Regardless of whether divorcing parents are litigating their divorce and the judge must decide child custody in its entirety or the divorcing parents mediated a parenting plan, the judge must provide a custody arrangement that preserves the best interests of the children involved in a divorce case. The first thing a judge will evaluate is whether a parent or other party pursuing custody has committed any criminal acts that would disqualify them as suitable parents.
If both parents are suitable parents, the judge must evaluate practical factors to determine the best physical custody arrangement for the children or where they will live and spend their time. When divorcing parents remain in close proximity, joint physical custody is typically easier to manage. If one parent moves out of the area, the remaining parent will likely have a stronger case for custody since the children would experience minimal disruption to their daily lives from the divorce.
Ultimately, the judge making a child custody determination must assess several crucial factors about the parents seeking custody, including:
- Each parent’s income. Unless both parents spend the exact same amount of time with the children and earn the exact same amount of income, one parent will undoubtedly owe the other some measure of child support on a regular basis.
- Each parent’s work schedule and availability to provide for the children’s everyday needs.
- Each parent’s living situation.
- Proximity of each parent to schools, extended family members, and medical treatment facilities.
- The age, health, and overall physical condition of the parents.
Every child custody determination is different, but it is safe to assume that a judge will, at the very least, examine these criteria to determine the best custody arrangement for the children. It is crucial for parents to understand these criteria and to present the best possible image to the judge overseeing their custody determination. This means continuing to be a positive influence and supportive parent while abiding by the terms of any temporary custody and support orders until a final ruling is delivered.
What Should You Not Do During a Custody Battle?
Whether they stem from divorce or disputes between unmarried parents, child custody determinations are incredibly stressful experiences. Unfortunately, some parents involved in custody disputes make serious mistakes that can not only jeopardize their ability to argue for custody but may even lead to a loss of parental rights or less flexible custody terms:
- Do not talk badly to your children about your children’s other parent. It is crucial to separate whatever personal feelings you might harbor for your ex from your responsibilities as parents. Any attempt to harm your children’s relationships with their other parent will ultimately backfire tremendously, likely damaging your relationships with them in the future.
- Do not post about your case on social media. While some people may need to vent their frustrations, it is never a good idea to post anything at all to social media while involved in a legal dispute of any kind. Anything you post to social media is essentially published to the public and easily accessible for anyone. If you post anything that runs contrary to statements you have made in your custody battle, you can expect these posts to severely injure your position in the dispute.
- Do not refuse alternative dispute resolution if it is offered. While you cannot privately negotiate child custody to a firm conclusion, you and your spouse can negotiate a parenting plan privately and submit it to a judge for approval. If your coparent is willing to do this, do not allow spite to prevent you from securing a more expedient and less stressful end to the child custody determination.
- Do not refrain from seeking legal counsel. Even if your coparent is a reasonable person, it is always best to have professional guidance in any legal matter. A Sacramento child custody lawyer is your best asset in this situation.
Understanding Your Child Custody & Support Options in Sacramento, CA
Many variables are considered when child custody and child support arrangements are being made. These variables can include income, taxes paid, deductions for daycare and other services, how much time a child spends with each parent, and many other factors. I can explain to you how the law works and help you assess what child custody and/or support plan makes sense for you and your family.
In some cases, I will ask my clients to speak with a certified public accountant (CPA) or tax preparer so that we have more detailed information to work with while preparing a child support proposal.
Modify An Existing Custody Or Support Arrangement
Families change over time, and so their children’s needs. As your child grows older, for instance, he or she may choose to spend time at each parent’s home in a way that does not conform to an outdated custody plan.
If you have a custody plan or a support plan that needs to be updated, I can help. Contact Judy Ford, Attorney at Law, today and schedule a case evaluation. Our team will review your child custody case and let you know what to expect from the proceedings ahead.