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Child Custody: Protecting Your Relationship With Your Child
When parents divorce, the divorce decree will specify what parent the child will live with, and how often and under what circumstances the other parent will visit the children. Often, parents work out child custody arrangements between themselves, either voluntarily or with the assistance of their attorneys or a mediator. When they are unable to reach a decision, or when unmarried parents are unable to agree on who will have custody of their child, the court may intervene and decide based on the “best interests of the child.”
In many situations, physical custody is awarded to one parent (sole custody). However, often the custodial parent shares “legal custody” of the child with the non-custodial parent. “Legal custody” includes the right to make decisions about the child’s education, religion, health care and other important concerns. When one parent is awarded sole physical custody, the other parent is granted visitation, either according to a clear schedule of dates and times, or on a “reasonable” basis. If allegations of abuse are raised against the non-custodial parent, any visitation granted may be subject to supervision by a neutral third party. Grandparents and stepparents may also be entitled to visitation rights.
Joint Custody and Split Custody
Some parents may choose a joint-custody arrangement where the child spends an equal amount of time with both parents. Since joint custody requires a high degree of cooperation between the parents, courts are reluctant to order joint custody unless both parents agree and can demonstrate the ability to make joint decisions and cooperate for the child’s sake. Another option is split custody, where one parent has custody of one or more of the children and the other parent has custody of the other(s). However, courts usually prefer not to separate siblings, when issuing custody orders.
When the child’s parents are unmarried, most state laws require that the mother be awarded sole physical custody unless the father takes action to be awarded custody. An unwed father may have difficulty gaining custody over a mother who is a good parent, but he will usually take priority over other relatives, foster parents or prospective adoptive parents.
When deciding who will have custody, the courts consider various factors. The overriding consideration is always what’s in the “best interests of the child.” Often, the main factor is which parent has been the child’s primary caretaker. If the children are old enough, the courts will take their preference into account in making a custody decision. Once entered, a custody award can be changed by the court if the parent’s or children’s circumstances change.
Some people criticize the courts for being gender-biased, because so many custody awards are in the mother’s favor. Others respond to this criticism, however, with the fact that historically mothers have been, and in many cases continue to be, the children’s primary caregiver, so the higher number of awards to mothers is appropriate. As fathers become more actively involved in their children’s care, there likely will be more custody awards to fathers.
Because custody and visitation decisions involve such important considerations and impact so many lives, the assistance of an experienced lawyer is an essential element of the child custody decision-making process.
At Feinberg & Waller, APC we understand how important your children are to you. Our attorneys are sensitive to protecting your children’s rights throughout the divorce process. We know what family law judges expect, and we have experience working with the independent professionals that are often brought into custody negotiations. We are sensitive, discreet and non-judgmental when it comes to the numerous issues relating to children and divorce.
You have questions… Marshall Waller speaks candidly about child custody.
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They’re Your Children. Confidentiality Is Important.
We understand the importance of discretion in legal matters like child custody and parenting rights. We have office procedures and policies in place to help protect your family’s confidentiality. When children are involved, we pledge to view your children with the utmost importance, regardless of which parent brings the case to court. We always practice with your children’s best interests in mind. Your divorce is more than simply a matter of dividing property and financial assets — your decisions will have a tremendous impact on your life, as well as those around you.
Trust The Child Custody Law Firm that Other Attorneys Turn To
Attorney Marshall Waller is a California board-certified family law specialist who helps clients resolve their complex child custody issues. At Feinberg & Waller, APC family law is our only area of legal practice. Since our firm began serving the needs of Los Angeles area communities many years ago, we have become recognized as a law firm that other lawyers turn to when they need help in their own personal family law matters. Legal professionals, doctors, and business executives turn to us when their children’s interests are at stake in divorce.
When it comes to your children, experience matters. Contact us to discuss your specific child custody concerns.