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Child custody describes the legal and practical relationship between a parent and child. When parents decide to divorce or separate, their child's custody arrangements must be taken into careful consideration in order to maintain and preserve the crucial parent-child relationship. Child custody arrangements are often difficult for parents to resolve without conflict. Therefore, it is always beneficial for both parents to seek the advice and counsel of an accomplished Temecula divorce attorney who is experienced in California child custody law.
The California courts are required to act as the child's advocate and therefore must make custody orders with the best interests of the child as the primary consideration. If feasible and in the child's best interest, both parents will be awarded joint legal and physical custody of their children. However, there are often situations in which such an order is either impractical or not in the child's best interest.
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Foremost in a judge's mind when determining whether to award joint or sole custody to a parent boil down to what is in the child's best interests. Both parents have an assumed equal right to custody—specifically, no preference is given to the mother or father.
The two guiding policies in California are the health, safety, and welfare of the child on the one hand, and maintaining frequent and continuing contact with both parents. Judges may and do consider factors relevant within these parameters in individual cases.
Judges must at all times uphold the child's welfare in determining custody. Judges will not grant custody or even visitation rights to a father of a child conceived as a result of the father's rape of the mother, for example. Custody or unsupervised visitation also cannot be awarded to a parent who has been convicted of certain types of physical or sexual child abuse. Even if the abuse did not result in a conviction but is independently corroborated, visitation rights can be affected.
In California, the court must take the wishes of the child into consideration so long as the child is mature enough to make an informed decision. No definitive age is given, but the older and more mature a child is, the more weight which will be attached to the child's preference.
A significant factor is determining which parent will be more likely to encourage a positive relationship in terms of fostering frequent contact with the other parent. If a parent is shown to have interfered with the child's relationship with the other parent, especially if they have level false allegations against the other parent in an attempt to limit their contact with the child, the accuser may find their custody or visitation restricted.
Parents should understand that custody can be either legal or physical, sole or joint. Legal custody refers to the right and responsibility to make major decisions in the child's life including choices involving the child's health, education, and welfare. Physical custody is the ability to a parent to have their child live with them.
Judges who award joint legal custody are not obligated to also order joint physical custody and parents can agree to joint legal custody without agreeing to equal physical custody.
For help with child custody, reach out to the Temecula divorce attorney at the Law Office of Sharon L. Tate and get the critical legal counsel you need!