Generally, a breakup of a marriage is more traumatic for the children of the separating parents. Therefore, parents should be very mindful of their children when a separation occurs. When a child’s parents divorce or separate in California, decisions must be made about the child’s custody and support. If the parents are not able to come to an agreement on custody, visitation or child support, it will be handled by a judge. California Law directs family law judges to protect children until they reach the age of majority (usually 18 years of age) by determining what is best for the child when the parents disagree or when any of the parents submit the matter to a court.
Generally, the child and parents will benefit the most by putting the child’s welfare first and trying to decide what is best by agreement instead of litigation. In an effort to avoid litigation, California mandates mediation when parents cannot agree on custody, so as to facilitate decision making by the parents. However, when parents cannot or do not agree with each other, the legal system authorizes the family court judge to decide who should have custody, how many visits the non-custodial parent will have, and how much support the non-custodial parent is mandated to pay.
Litigation can be expensive, with both parties generally represented by a child custody lawyer. Litigation means that parents give up control over decision-making and that can have a huge impact on their children. The family court judge does not know as much about the needs of the child as the parents. Since litigation usually ends with both parties feeling bitter and sad about the results of using the courts to resolve custody and support issues, it should be a last resort when there is no other way.
The judicial proceedings of child custody and support in California:
During a custody trial, the judge usually considers certain facts to determine the best interests and welfare of the child. Here are some guidelines:
- What is the age of the child?
- Who would feed, bathe, clothe and teach the child during the week?
- What is the physical and emotional capacity of each parent?
- With whom is the child psychologically more attached?
- Is either parent trying to prevent the child from continuing a relationship with the other parent?
- Is either parent trying to use the child to hurt the other parent?
- Is one of the parents really unfit or unable to properly and appropriately raise the child?
There is no legal presumption for the mother or father in cases related to child custody and support in California. The determinative question is, what is in the best interests of the child?
Child custody orders can be entered into by agreement, that is, without a trial. Even if a request for order concerning child custody has been filed, the two parties can agree and ask the court to approve the agreement. The agreement will almost always be approved. The result is a child custody order by stipulation, which is legally enforceable by the court.
Child Custody and Support in California
If you are facing a child custody or child support battle, you should consult with a California child custody and support lawyer concerning your rights and the best interests of your child or children. Your kids will benefit if custody, visitation, and support issues can be determined amicably. When that is not possible, a family law attorney can help you through the process.