One of the most challenging issues parents face during divorce involves the custody of minor children. The dissolution of a marriage between two adults involves the often complex exercise of dividing assets, but it’s much more difficult to divide the parenting time spent with a child.
The first step necessary for parents who have been served with divorce papers, or those who want to pursue the modification of an existing child custody arrangement, is to retain the best family law attorney possible to ensure that their best interests, and those of their child, are protected by an experienced, assertive attorney. In Los Angeles County and surrounding areas, hundreds of parents have looked to attorney Karen S. Brown to help them navigate the complicated and emotional matters of family law.
A divorcing couple with minor children are required by California law to present to the court a written parenting plan, also called a “custody and visitation agreement,” as part of the divorce process. The plan details child custody, including parenting time by each parent and visitation. An experienced family law attorney can help parents discuss potential terms of custody and assist them with drafting a mutually agreed-to plan to present to the court. If parents can’t agree to terms of a plan, the parties will be heard in court and the judge will render a decision. A qualified, seasoned attorney will be invaluable in making the case to the judge regarding the custody of children.
The parenting plan differentiates between “legal custody,” that is who is making vital decisions about the children such as where they go to school and who their doctors are, and “physical custody” which includes where the children live and how they spend their time during holidays. Both types of custody can be awarded to one parent (sole custody) or be shared by both parents (joint custody).
The child’s best interest is the standard all parties should consider in drafting the parenting plan, but not all parties will agree on what constitutes “best interest.” In determining what is in the best interest of a child, the court will consider areas including:
The child’s age, health, and safety, including exposure to violence or substance abuse;
The child’s emotional ties to each parent and his/her preferences;
The ability of each parent to care for the child, as well as their ability to co-parent; and,
The stability of the child, including the child’s ties to their home, school, and community.
Child custody plans can be modified after they go into effect. But since a parenting plan is designed to provide the child with stability, there have to be very good reasons to modify it. Those reasons can be based on the changing needs of the child or on changing circumstances of the parents. For example, as the child gets older, their activities, interests, and even preferences regarding their parents can change. Similarly, as parents move past their divorce, their lives may be changed by professional opportunities, personal relationships, and moving to a different home.
Custody modifications can be made by both parents agreeing to revised terms of the parenting plan and submitting it to the court. If the parents disagree with modifications to the custody plan, they will need to return to court to present their cases to a judge who will render the decision.
Neither parent in a divorce wants to “lose” a child, which makes custody a more contentious issue than dividing real estate and other assets. Parents need to find an attorney who will be a strong advocate for their interests regarding their children as well as their property, so they should research their options carefully. Searching for an attorney who is a Certified Legal Specialist in Family Law is a great start. This designation is awarded by the State Bar of California to lawyers who have completed additional legal education in all aspects of family law, which makes them more knowledgeable about the complex issues involved when families undergo change.
At the Law Office of Karen S. Brown, you can rest assured that your child custody case will be treated with experienced care and attention through every step of fighting for your child’s best interests. Karen S. Brown is a Certified Legal Specialist in Family Law fiercely dedicated to serving clients and their children in Los Angeles County, Ventura County, Orange County, San Bernardino County, and surrounding areas. Consultation is free, so don’t wait.