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Pasadena and Woodland Hills Lawyers Fight for Your Custody and Visitation Rights


Child custody issues in California

During a divorce or separation, child custody and visitation decisions are a primary source of anxiety for parents. The experienced family law attorneys at the Law Offices of Steven A. Blunt know this, and do everything they can to calm your fears and educate you on the laws and the processes that affect your case.

What are the custody laws in California?

Custody and visitation laws in California are not dependent on gender. Mothers and fathers have equal custody rights.  Courts no longer automatically grant custody to the mother, even for very young children. The courts will also not deny your right to custody or visitation because of lifestyle choices, religion, sexual orientation or physical disability, except in those rare cases in which the minor child’s best interests are directly impacted.

California divides custody into two categories:

  • Legal custody comprises who makes decisions concerning the children’s health, education and welfare. The law provides that it shall be awarded to the parties jointly, except in cases in which there is a compelling reason not to do so.
  • Physical custody encompasses the physical custody of the child; that is with whom the child lives. Joint physical custody means that each party will have a period of physical custody of the children; sole physical custody means only one party will have such periods.

An award of sole physical custody does not necessarily mean the other party will not see the children, as the other party may still be awarded visitation, which consists of spending time with the children but with fewer legal rights than with physical custody. “Time-sharing” is the term applied to the arrangements that determine when the children will be with their mother and when they will be with their father.

Joint custody arrangements preferred

The “best case scenario” for which the court aims in all cases is a joint custody arrangement, agreed upon by both parties. In joint custody, the parents share equally in both the children’s time and the right to make decisions concerning the children. Unfortunately, such arrangements are not always possible. Even where the parties are friendly, both possess appropriate parenting skills and are closely bonded to the children, geography and employment responsibilities or even an established status quo can render an equal time-sharing arrangement unfeasible.

Custody matters can be extremely complicated, especially when there are special circumstances. If the parties cannot agree on custody issues, they may be ordered to submit to an assessment by a court-appointed mental health professional who will provide the judge with information about both parents, the children and collateral individuals. This assists the court in rendering a custody decision. Among the points the court may consider are:

  • The child’s age
  • The child’s health, safety and welfare
  • Instances of domestic violence by either parent
  • History of drug or alcohol abuse by either parent
  • The child’s preference, based on level of maturity

Custody orders are never permanent. When circumstances change, a parent can request a custody modification if he or she can demonstrate to the family law court that there has been a change in circumstances affecting the best interests of the child.

Custody, visitation and child support

If  the courts grant one parent sole custody of a child, the court may provide visitation for the other parent. Our attorneys can help you create a manageable custody and visitation schedule that protects your right to spend time with your children.

A child support order is separate from the orders for custody and visitation. One parent cannot refuse the other custody or visitation because he or she is behind on child support. Conversely, a parent may not withhold child support because the other parent has not complied with the custody and visitation agreement.

A Pasadena family law attorney who understands your case

We will strive to learn every detail of your case to enable us to advise and assist you in setting reasonable expectations. Matters of child custody and visitation tend to be delicate. We will help you balance the emotions with the realities of your situation, providing the best chance of resolving custody disputes and avoiding court intervention. Call 626-796-0031 or contact us online — or come by our Pasadena or Woodland Hills office to discuss the details of your case.