Los Angeles Child Custody Attorney

Los Angeles Child Custody Lawyer

When you’re going through a divorce, one of the biggest concerns you have is what will happen to your children. Who will they live with? How often will they see the other parent? These are all important questions, and you need to make sure that you have an experienced child custody lawyer on your side to help ensure the best possible outcome for your family. It can be a very contentious issue, but it’s important to try to reach an agreement that is in the best interests of the child or children involved. At Martin Family Law Group, our Los Angeles child custody attorneys are ready to assist you with your case. Call (310) 694-9533 today to schedule a free consultation.

Types of Custody in California

“Child custody” refers to the rights and responsibilities of parents for taking care of their children. If you are going through a divorce or break up with children, you will need an order for child custody and a parenting schedule. To be legally enforceable, the child custody and parenting plan must be signed by a judge.

​There are two ways to get a child custody and visitation order signed by the judge:

  1. The parents can reach an agreement and submit it to the court without a hearing (which will almost always be approved and signed by the judge); or
  2. In absence of an agreement, the parties must litigate the issue in court and let the judge make the final decision.

In California, there are two types of child custody: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody refers to a parent’s right to make important decisions regarding a child’s health, safety, and welfare. Physical custody refers to who the child lives with. Both types of custody can be shared by the parents jointly (joint custody), or granted to one parent individually (sole custody). Moreover, the court may order any combination of joint custody and sole custody (for instance, joint legal custody with sole physical custody to one parent, or vice versa).

Legal Custody

In California, legal custody orders give one or both parents the right to make decisions regarding:

  • Enrollment in or leaving a particular private or public school or daycare center
  • Beginning or ending of psychiatric, psychological, or other mental health counseling or therapy
  • Participation in extracurricular activities
  • Selection of a doctor, dentist, or another health professional (a parent does not need to have legal custody to take action in emergency situations)
  • Participation in particular religious activities or institutions
  • Travel outside the state of California

A parent with sole legal custody has the sole authority to make these decisions. Parents with joint legal custody both have the right to make such decisions, but the court may order (or the parties may agree) that the parents obtain the other’s consent before making certain decisions.

Physical Custody

Physical custody refers to who the child lives with. Physical custody can be joint, sole, or primary. Joint physical custody means the child lives with both parents. However, joint physical custody does not necessarily mean that the child spends equal time with both parents. When one parent has physical custody more than half of the time, that parent is sometimes considered to have “primary physical custody” or to be the “primary custodial parent.” A parent with sole physical custody has custody most of the time, and visitation is given to the noncustodial parent.

Visitation/ Parenting Time

A parent who has physical custody of the child less than half the time has “visitation.” Visitation orders will vary depending on the best interests of the children and other circumstances. In general, visitation can be ordered as follows:

Visitation according to schedule:
In most cases, it benefits the children and parents to have a detailed visitation schedule to prevent conflicts and confusion. A visitation schedule will set forth the dates and times the children will spend with each parent and may include other orders relevant to visitation such as transportation to and from visits, holiday and vacation schedules, or orders against making disparaging comments about the other parent in the presence of the children.

Reasonable visitation:
Reasonable visitation orders are generally open-ended and do not include a set schedule. Reasonable visitation orders should only be used in cases where the parents get along and are flexible with their parenting time.​

Supervised visitation:
The court may order supervised visitation in cases where the health, safety, and welfare of the child requires that a parent be monitored, or in cases where the parent and child were separated and now need time to form a relationship before spending time alone. The court may order that supervised visits be monitored by a professional or by a responsible friend or family member with no history of child abuse.

No Visitation:
This option is used when visitation would be physically or emotionally harmful to the child. Since serious allegations of child abuse are generally handled in other courts, “no visitation” orders made in family court are usually only temporary orders while an investigation is pending, or ordered in cases where an absentee parent shows no interest in establishing or maintaining a relationship with the child.

​If your child custody matter is contested, you need an experienced family law attorney to persuasively litigate your position in court.   On the other hand, even if you and the other parent agree on every detail of your child custody arrangement, you will need an attorney to navigate the legal process and draft an effective agreement that protects your current and future interests.

How do California Courts Decide Child Custody?

Child custody can be one of the most difficult aspects of a family law case, and contested child custody cases often involve many hours of litigation and can be expensive. In some cases, families have to go to trial to resolve their disputes.

In California, child custody is decided by the court based on the best interests of the child. The court will consider many factors in deciding what is in the best interests of the child. Some of the factors the court will consider are:

  • The wishes of the child’s parents;
  • The wishes of the child, if the child is old enough to express an opinion;
  • The child’s relationship with each parent;
  • The child’s relationship with siblings and other important people in his or her life;
  • The child’s age and health;
  • Each parent’s ability to provide for the child’s needs;
  • Each parent’s mental and physical health; and
  • Each parent’s history of domestic violence or substance abuse.

The California Family Code states that children over 14 years old, or children under 14 with sufficient capacity to form an intelligent preference as to child custody and visitation, shall be permitted to testify regarding his or her preference unless the court determines that it would not be in the child’s best interest to testify.

In practice, however, most judges in Los Angeles Family Court tend to consider it detrimental to a minor child’s interests to testify against one of her parents in court. And because most family law judges are hesitant, if not openly averse, to calling minor children into Family Law Court to testify in standard Child Custody proceedings, a parent is at serious risk of losing credibility with the judge by making such a request. This is in large part because parents with cases in Family Court are presumed competent, unlike in juvenile dependency court where a parent is charged with serious allegations of abuse and neglect. In juvenile dependency or criminal courts, the child might be called to testify as a percipient witness to the abuse, rather than about his preference between two presumptively competent parents. Moreover, children do not always prefer to live with the parent most likely to promote their best interests, instead often preferring to live with less structure and fewer rule

Resolving Child Custody Disputes in California

Going to court can be costly, time-consuming, and emotionally draining for everyone involved. Thankfully, there are other options that can help you resolve your dispute without having to step foot in a courtroom.

One of the most common alternatives to going to court is mediation. Mediation is a process where a neutral third party helps parents communicate with each other and come to an agreement about child custody. The mediator does not make any decisions for the parents; rather, they help the parents come to their own agreement. Mediation can be an effective way to resolve disputes because it gives parents the opportunity to discuss their concerns and needs in a safe and constructive setting.

Even if you don’t need to go to court, speaking with an experienced family law attorney is still advisable.

Why Hire The Martin Family Law Group?

Going through a divorce or dealing with child custody issues is never easy. But when you have the right divorce attorney on your side, you can rest assured knowing that you have someone in your corner who is fighting for you. Here are three reasons why you should hire us for your family law needs:

1. We’re Aggressive

We know that when it comes to divorce and child custody disputes, things can get heated quickly. That’s why we pride ourselves on being aggressive lawyers who are not afraid to go to bat for our clients. We will tenaciously fight for the outcome that you deserve.

2. We’re Female-Owned

We are a female-owned law firm, which means that we understand the unique challenges that women face in divorce and child custody cases.

3. Our Main Goal is to Deliver a Favorable Outcome to You

Above all else, our main goal is an amicable and satisfactory resolution for our clients. However, we also understand that sometimes the other side is not willing to play fair. In those cases, we are fully prepared to take your case to court and fight for you.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation.