[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_accordion][vc_accordion_tab title=”Child Custody & Visitation”][vc_column_text]CHILD CUSTODY
There are two major circumstances in which child custody and/or child visitation usually becomes an issue:
1. When a child’s parents, who are married, decide to divorce.
2. When one is a Single Parent OR co-parenting
One is considered a single parent when they are the only parent taking on the day to day responsibilities of raising their child.
Co-parenting is when the parents, although living separately, both maintain equal or equivalent responsibilities for their child’s upbringing. This is usually the case when a couple separates or divorces. Co-parenting is also common when a child is born to parent’s who were not married, but both want to be active, involved parents for the child.
In cases of Single or Co-parenting, if the parties were never married, a Paternity Action must be filed in order to formally establish custody of a child, visitation and/or child support.
In California, there are two types of child custody:
1. Legal Custody
2. Physical Custody
Legal Custody means who will make important decisions for your children such as health care, education, and
welfare. Physical Custody means who your children will live with.
Parents are required to participate in mediation and attempt to come to an agreement regarding custody. However, if they are unable to reach an agreement, the court will determine both who will make decisions for the child and whom the child will live with. Either party may request temporary orders pending trial.
When the court makes child custody decisions, it will consider many different factors including, but not limited to:
1. The child’s existing living arrangements, schedule, and any potential effects significant change to such arrangements will have on the child.
2. The parents’ relationships with the child.
3. The parents’ lifestyles including abhorrent and criminal behavior or allegations of such.
4. The health of the parents (both physical and mental).
5. The living situation of the parents and their ability to provide for the child.
6. The parents’ attitudes towards the other parent’s rights to the child.
7. What the child wants.
8. The age, gender, and health of the child.
Experts agree that a child’s well being benefits most when they are able to continue to have a bond with both parents. The parent that is not awarded primary physical custody of the child has the right to visitation, absent a showing of why that parent should be denied that right; and even in this instance, the court may award supervised visitation if it is in the child’s best interest.
Our office specializes in working with individuals and their families, guiding them when when making important decisions that will have a significant impact on their family. Frequently we counsel people who are not aware of their
child custody rights or California custody laws. Because of lack of information, the best interest of their children is
often at risk.
We also frequently counsel individuals who, due to tension between them, make irrational decisions to “get back” at
the other parent; these actions can have detrimental effect on the children involved. Often, something as simple as
having a neutral person guide the parties, helps them come to an agreement that is in the child’s best interest.
Merissa Grayson is a private Child Custody mediator and encourages mediation as an option in many circumstances.
Whether you have just been served with custody papers, want to file for child custody, are seeking custody
modification, need a mediator, or would just like to receive information on California custody laws and your custody
rights, we can help.[/vc_column_text][/vc_accordion_tab][vc_accordion_tab title=”Child Support”][vc_column_text]
When going through a divorce with children involved, being a single-parent, or co-parenting, it is important that the child involved receive adequate support.
In California, unless the parents agree to a different amount, both the amount of child support and which parent is obligated to pay support will be determined by using a formula that is set by the state.
This child support formula considers:
1. the amount of time each parent spends with the child (often referred to as the parent’s timeshare)
2. the income of each parent
3. the number of children each parent has from another relationship
4. any hardships each parent has
Once child support has been ordered, if the circumstances of either parent materially change, they may request modification of ordered child support accordingly. Additionally, once per year, either parent may request that the other parent provide satisfactory proof of their income and expenses.[/vc_column_text][/vc_accordion_tab][vc_accordion_tab title=”Guardianship & Adoption”][vc_column_text]Sometimes it is necessary for someone else to temporarily or permanently take care of your child;
No matter how much a parent loves their child, they may be unable to take care of their child for various reasons. Some common reasons are when one or both parents:
- Are in the military and have to go overseas;
- Are going to jail or a rehab program for a while;
- Have a serious physical or mental illness;
- Have a drug or alcohol abuse problem;
- Have a history of being abusive;
- Do not wish to be a parent; or
- Cannot take care of their child for some other reasons
Many families handle this informally, by mutual agreement or understanding between the parent(s) and the person who will take care of the child. However to have the legal, enforceable, right to take on the full responsibility and welfare of that child, there are formal steps that must be taken.
There are several methods one may use to obtain the legal rights to a child, depending on the circumstances. The two most common methods are guardianship and adoption. Although Guardianship and
Adoption are similar, there are some major differences.
Guardianship is when a court orders someone other than the child’s parent to have custody of the child (Guardianship of the person) and/or manage property that belongs to the child (Guardianship of the Estate).
Guardianship of the person:
In a guardianship of the person, the guardian takes full responsibility to care for the child as a parent
would. The guardian will have full legal and physical custody of the child and will make all the decisions about the care of the child including: physical and emotional growth, medical and dental care, food, clothing, shelter, education, special needs, safety, and protection. The guardian is also be responsible for supervision of the child and may be liable for any intentional damages the child causes.
Anyone can be a Guardian including relatives, friends of the family, or anyone else deemed suitable to raise the child.
Although the Guardian will take care of the child, the parents will still have parental rights and may request to maintain reasonable contact with their child.
Additionally, the Guardian may be supervised by the court and if the parents later become willing and/or able to take care of the child, the court may decide to end the guardianship.
Guardianship of the estate:
A child usually needs a guardian of the estate if he or she inherits money or assets. The Guardian of the estate will be responsible for managing the child’s money and property and making smart investments until the child turns
18 years old. The court may appoint the child’s parents or someone else to be the guardian of the child’s estate. Although the court sometimes appoints one person to be both the guardian of the person and of the estate, sometimes two different people are appointed.
Adoption is the legal process of establishing a legal parentchild relationship. Once an adoption is final, that new parent-child relationship is permanent and is exactly the same as that of a birth family. This means that the adoptive parents have all the legal rights and responsibilities of caring for the child. Additionally, the adopted child will inherit from his or her adoptive parents, just as a birth child would and the adoptive families are not subject to supervision by the court.
There are two types of adoptions:
1. The Stepparent/domestic partner adoption and;
2. The Independent, agency, or international adoption.
Stepparent/domestic partner adoption. A stepparent/domestic partner adoption is when the spouse or domestic partner of a child’s parent adopts the child. This is the most common type of adoption and is the most simple because one of the child’s parents still remains the child’s parent. It is only an option if the parent and the adoptive parent are legally married or registered as domestic partners.
Independent adoption. An independent adoption is when no adoption agency or the Department of Social Services is part of the adoption case. Rather, prospective adoptive parents are advised by an adoption attorney and will take an active role in identifying a birth mother and obtaining that mother’s consent.
Agency adoption. Agency adoption is when the California Department of Social Services or a licensed adoption agency is part of the adoption case. In an agency adoption, the birth parents relinquish their parental rights to an agency, and the agency, will then consent to an adoption by specific adoptive parents.
International adoption. International adoption is when the child to be adopted was born in another country.
In all these three types, the court terminates parental rights of both of the child’s birth parents, and the adoptive parents become the child’s legal parents.
[/vc_column_text][/vc_accordion_tab][vc_accordion_tab title=”Divorce & Legal Separation”][vc_column_text]One of the most difficult decisions for a couple to make is to end their marriage. Getting a divorce in California can be stressful, frustrating, and confusing amongst many other things. When couples decide to call it quits, they often don’t know where to start. It is common for troubled couples to wonder if they should opt for Legal Separation or Divorce; most don’t know the major differences between the two.
Legal Separation is similar to Divorce in that the couple decides to end their marital relationship. However, for
certain reasons they do not want to formally finalize a divorce so, they opt for legal separation.
There are several reasons married couples may choose legal separation rather than divorce. Religious, cultural,
or other moral beliefs that oppose divorce are common reasons. Some choose not to divorce because of issues with residency that interfere with getting a divorce. Others decide to remain legally married so that they may continue to benefit from family health insurance plans.
Similar to divorce, when couples legally separate, the court will order the division of property and determine
spousal support. If children are involved the court will also determine child support, child custody, and visitation.
The most distinguishing factor between legal separation and divorce is that even after legal separation is final, the
couple will remain married and therefore is not allowed to remarry unless they proceed with an actual divorce.
When a couple decides to end their marriage, especially when they have been married for a long time, they are
making a decision to substantially change their lives. The California divorce process requires many decisions
to be made either by an agreement between the parties or an order made by the court. All property, debts, assets, and liabilities must be divided. Additionally, spousal support must be determined if the right to support has not been waived. Finally, if the divorcing couple have children, the issues of child support, child custody, and visitation must be resolved. Divorce is very complex and there are several phases that one will go through before a divorce is finalized.
Stages of a California Divorce:
- Petition for divorce is filed by one spouse;
- The other spouse must file a response to the divorce petition;
- Either or both spouses may request temporary orders until the case is complete. Temporary orders may then be granted for spousal support, child support, child custody, visitation, possession of property, etc.
- Each spouse must exchange required documents that prove their income, assets, debts, and monthly expenses.
- The spouses or 3rd parties may be interviewed, under oath. This is to allow the parties to obtain necessary information that was not obtained previously.
- Mediation and/or negotiation will take place to give the parties an opportunity to agree on the issues.
- If the spouses can reach an agreement, a Marital Settlement Agreement is executed by all parties. If no settlement is reached, the case will proceed to trial.
- Judgment of Dissolution must be filed, containing the terms of either the Settlement Agreement or the trial decision.
California is a community property state which means: all property acquired during marriage and before separation, other than by gift or inheritance is considered to belong to the marital community (absent showing otherwise) and must be divided equally if the couple Divorces. How property will be divided depends on each spouse’s debts, assets,
liabilities, and property, which must be fully disclosed to the other spouse. If the spouses are unable to agree on division of assets, the court will make the final determination. In California, although child support is controlled by a formula created by the state, spousal support is not; the court has broad discretion when
determining spousal support.
Spousal support is not guaranteed. In long term marriages, spousal support can be ordered indefinitely, even after the spouses retire. The court may even decide not to award spousal support at all depending on the several factors the court considers such as the income of the parties, the parties’ ability to work and earning capacity, the marital standard of living, and more.
California divorce is a very specialized practice of law. In order to be successful in your family law case, you must be educated in many areas that typically aren’t generally known by those who have never been involved in a family law case. For more information on California divorce, check out our divorce articles.[/vc_column_text][/vc_accordion_tab][vc_accordion_tab title=”Domestic Violence”][vc_column_text]Domestic Violence is broadly defined as a pattern of abusive behaviors by one or both partners in a domestic relationship. If one is a victim of Domestic violence, they may seek future protection by filing an Application for a
Domestic Violence Restraining Order. A Domestic violence restraining order is basically a legal injunction that requires a party to do or not do certain acts. The length of the order and the scope of protection is determined by the court. One who refuses to comply with a domestic violence restraining order will face criminal or civil penalties and possibly, prison sentences. A domestic violence restraining order obtained through the family courts is different than a criminal restraining order or criminal protective order.
Before one may file a request for a Domestic violence restraining order, two requirements must be met:
- A relationship is considered domestic if it is between family members, romantic partners, or the parents of a child.
- There must be a domestic relationship The filing party must have suffered abuse
One is considered to have suffered from abuse if they have been a victim of physical aggression such as kicking,shoving, biting,hitting, restraining, slapping, throwing objects, or threats thereof. Sexual or emotional abuse, intimidation, neglect, controlling or domineering behavior, stalking, and even economic deprivation are also considered abuse.
Children who are also victims of the domestic violence will also be protected by the restraining order. Even in situations where the children aren’t victims, if the court orders a restraining order against a parent, the restrained
Parent’s rights to their children will be severely affected because there’s an automatic presumption against them as a result. Whether you are the victim or the accused in a domestic violence matter, you have rights, need support, and someone to help resolve the situation and find solutions to prevent recurrence.
Mediation is one of the most practical ways for parents to resolve disputes related to child custody, time-sharing, visitation, child support, and co-parenting.
Mediation is perfect for parents who:
- Don’t want to fight in court.
- Have no current custody, visitation, or support order in place OR want to change or personalize the orders they have in place to better reflect their current family situation.
- Are interested in exploring options that will assist with the transition into a divided/blended family OR are looking for new options to help improve and strengthen the dynamic of their divided/blended family (i.e. counseling, courses, evaluations, community programs, and other resources).
- Just want solutions.
Through mediation, I help divided families resolve disputes by shifting their focus to the overall goals for their children rather than their underlying problems which are essentially unimportant when it comes to the legal issues.
Parents of divided families often experience emotional roller coasters, frustration, anger, confusion, and more; it all naturally comes with the territory of being separated. These emotions often lead to a chain of problems as they interfere with the ability to think sensibly and act soley in the best interest of the children involved. As a result, parents unnecessarily resort to battling it out in court, which is by and large extremely time consuming, stressful, and costly for everyone involved.
In mediation, which takes place in a relaxed, yet structured atmosphere, parents meet with me to facilitate an open discussion during which they are able to confidentially communicate and discuss any issues of concern, goals, and proposed solutions. As no divided family is the same, no two mediation sessions will be the same.
As a mediator, I am a neutral party; I do not represent either party, but work carefully with the parents to help them figure out what will work best for their divided/blended family. I will then specifically tailor a unique agreement for the parents, which will ultimately be submitted to the Court with a request that it be made an enforceable court order.
For more information about Mediation, visit our Divided & Blended Family Services page by clicking here