Custody battles are often nerve-wracking for parents. If you're concerned you may not receive the timeshare you deserve with your child or the other parent actively combats your efforts to obtain an equitable outcome, you need an experienced Calabasas child custody lawyer to help defend your rights.
At Feinberg & Waller, APC, our compassionate family law attorneys leverage more than five decades of combined experience to help clients deal with custody cases in Los Angeles and Ventura County. We'll fight to protect your parental rights and your child's best interests in and out of the courtroom.
How Do I Get Child Custody in California?
To obtain custody in California, a parent must file a custody case with their county court. Parents typically obtain a custody arrangement in one of two ways:
- Agreeing on a custody arrangement. If the parents agree on a custody timeshare, they (with the help of attorneys) can draft an agreement laying out their proposed parenting plan. If a court approves the agreement, it will be signed into law.
- Litigating the custody arrangement in court. If the parents cannot agree on terms for custody, they may choose to pursue a custody order in court. This often involves each parent presenting a parenting plan to the court. After considering each party's case, the court will make a final judgment and hand down a legally binding custody order for the parents.
Courts consider a wide range of factors during custody cases, including:
- The age and health of each parent;
- The age and health of the child(ren);
- The parents' behavior during the relationship;
- The ability of each parent to care for their child;
- Whether other factors, such as domestic abuse, play a role in the case;
- How a potential custody arrangement would impact the child (such as forcing them to move to a different school, community, etc.).
As a parent, you want the best for your child. Having an experienced Calabasas child custody attorney at your side during your case can help you pursue a custody arrangement that enables your child to thrive.
Learn More About Child Custody:
- Out-of-State Child Custody
- Interstate & International Child Custody
- Hague Convention / International Child Abduction
- VIDEO: Child Custody in Los Angeles & Ventura County
Types of Custody in California
California courts recognize two types of custody:
- Physical custody – Which parent a child (or children) live with; and
- Legal custody – How much control the parents have over their child(ren)'s rights, such as determining what education they receive, their health care plan, the extracurricular activities they engage in, etc.
Parents can split both physical and legal custody in one of two ways:
- Sole custody, in which one parent has complete control of the child(ren)'s physical and/or legal custody; and
- Joint custody, in which both parents have control of the child(ren)'s physical and/or legal custody.
Physical Custody vs. Legal Custody
Physical custody is what most parents think of in the context of “child custody,” since the physical custodian is with whom the child will typically spend most of their time. Even when one parent is awarded sole physical custody, the court will almost always set a visitation (or “access” or “timeshare;” same concept, different labels) schedule for the other parent.
Legal custody, on the other hand, deals with who will have the right to make decisions relating to the health, safety, and welfare of the child, the so-called “big” decisions in the child’s life.
While a parent with physical custody has the discretion to make day-to-day decisions for the child, the legal custodian will have the right to make more important decisions like what school the child will attend, what religion they will be raised under, as well as important medical decisions. In most cases, physical custody will be awarded to the parent that the child will spend the most time with, and both parents will share legal custody.
Joint Custody vs. Sole Custody
The court may award either parent sole custody of the child, or award both parents joint custody. Joint custody does not mean the child spends an equal amount of time with each parent. In a joint custody arrangement, the child may spend 60% of their time living with one parent and 40% of their time with the other.
Generally, courts prefer it when parents engage in joint custody arrangements. Most experts agree (and the California Legislature has so determined) that both parents should be involved in their child’s upbringing and share parenting responsibilities even after divorce as much as is reasonably practical. As such, the court will try to award joint custody whenever possible.
Some courts will simply state that the so-called non-custodial parent will have “reasonable visitation,” but in this author’s opinion, it is always best to get a detailed and specific set schedule in the custody orders so there will always be a “fall back” position in the event the parents cannot agree.
For example, it's possible for parents to have joint physical custody, so the child spends time living with both parents but only give legal custody to one parent.
How to Get Full Custody in California
Content: Most judges in California seek to avoid sole or full custody, as having both parents take part of the child’s life is seen as healthy and in their best interests. However, if you feel your child(ren) are in a dangerous situation, requesting full custody is part of doing your due diligence. Here are several scenarios in which full custody may be awarded:
- The parent in question has current or previous history of committing acts of domestic violence
- The parent has an ongoing drug or alcohol problem that isn’t currently being addressed
- The child has experienced physical, emotional, or mental trauma from the parent
- There are no age-appropriate limits put into place
- The parent is unable to properly care for the child due to a chronic mental illness
If you are falsely accused of one or more of these scenarios, your parental rights may be at risk! Don’t hesitate to contact our child custody lawyers in Beverly Hills for protection.
You may have heard of the term “unfit parent.” California defines a parent to be unfit when he or she fails to provide guidance, support, or care for their child(ren).
This ties directly into the material above. If you are seeking full custody of your child, proving the mother or father unfit can expedite that process. Keep in mind, any false allegations against your ex-spouse are taken very seriously and may come with strict penalties. We can provide guidance for you in these areas.
Examples of an Unfit Parent in California
When custody battles get heated, divorcing spouses often accuse the other of being "unfit" to care for the child(ren). These are serious accusations that the court doesn't take lightly. This is because being ruled as unfit can have severe custody or visitation consequences. If you believe that your spouse presents an immediate danger to the child, then it is your due diligence to make this known to the court. When evaluating your claim, a judge may look at the following possible scenarios when determining "fitness":
- Does the spouse have a mental disability that inhibits him or her from carrying out their role as protector/guardian?
- Does the spouse have a history of drug or alcohol abuse? If so, are they in the process of rehab or joining rehab?
- Has the parent shown a lack of willingness to be part of the child's life or make important decisions for them?
- Have they set age-appropriate limits while the child(ren) visits? If the child is a teenager, are there curfews set in place?
Calabasas Child Custody Resources
If you're looking for local resources for child custody matters in Calabasas, California, here are some options:
- Los Angeles County Superior Court - The Los Angeles County Superior Court handles family law cases, including child custody, in Calabasas. You can find information about court services, forms, and filing requirements on their website.
- Center for Families, Children, and the Courts - This program is run by the Judicial Council of California and provides resources and support for families going through the court process in family law cases, including child custody. They offer information about custody and visitation, mediation, and other services.
- California Department of Child Support Services - If child support is also an issue in your case, you may want to contact the California Department of Child Support Services for assistance. They can provide information about establishing paternity, calculating support, and enforcing support orders.
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