Child custody can be the most contentious issue between spouses going through divorce and for unmarried parents who are breaking up. That is not surprising, considering the reality that each parent’s relationship with their child may change. Through it all, though, it is important to remember that custody issues are about the children – the best interests of the children are the main concern. In fact, California courts are required by law to consider the best interests of the child in all custody and visitation matters.
At the Walnut Creek office of Kaspar & Lugay, LLP our lawyers provide a unique combination of compassionate client service and aggressive, responsive representation in child custody matters. We have a proven track record of reaching successful outcomes, both through out-of-court methods and in-court litigation. We handle custody issues in the contexts of divorce, legal separation, annulments, non-marital relationships and more.
Understanding Physical Custody and Legal Custody in California
California law distinguishes between physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody refers to where the child lives. Legal custody is the authority to make decisions about the child’s upbringing, which encompasses everything from where the child goes to school to what medical treatment the child should receive.
Here are several possible ways a court might assign child custody:
- Sole physical and sole legal custody to one parent: The child would live with one parent while the other may get visitation. The custodial parent would also have the sole right to make decisions involving the child’s upbringing.
- Sole physical custody for one parent, with joint legal custody: The child lives with one parent while the other may get visitation. The two parents share decision making authority.
- Joint physical and joint legal custody: The child lives with each parent for a certain amount of days a week and both parents share decision making authority.
- Joint physical custody with sole physical custody: Both parents share decision making authority, but the child lives with one parent while the other may get visitation.
California policy does not officially favor any particular arrangement, which gives Walnut Creek families and courts a great deal of discretion to establish parenting plans that are in the best interests of the child. As a practical matter, parents should keep in mind that, in normal family situations, the child benefits by having a strong relationship with both parents. This often leads to joint physical custody arrangements.
Joint physical custody works in many cases, but not all. For example, a parent who is abusive, neglectful or struggling with substance abuse may end up with limited parenting time or no visitation at all.
Mediation in Custody Cases
Parents who cannot agree on custody are required by California law to participate in mediation to try to resolve the issue. In Contra Costa County, mediation is confidential, and its only purpose is for parents to reach a custody agreement without resorting to appearing before a judge. The information used in mediation cannot be used as evidence in court and the mediator cannot be forced to appear in court to testify about anything said in mediation. The mediator’s only court contact is to report whether or not an agreement was reached.
If mediation is unsuccessful, then you and your lawyer will need to take it to the next step, which is usually litigation.
Full-Service Custody Representation
Our Walnut Creek lawyers have a proven record of success in virtually all types of child custody-related matters, including:
- Initial determinations of custody and visitation/parenting time
- Custody for unmarried parents
- Establishing paternity
- Move-away custody orders and other custody modifications
- Interstate child custody disputes
- Custody of special needs children
- Stepparent adoption
- Situations involving manipulation and parental alienation
- Cases involving Child Protective Services
Contact a Walnut Creek Child Custody and Visitation Lawyer
Protect your parental rights by contacting the Walnut Creek law office of Kaspar & Lugay, LLP. Our attorneys have extensive experience in all aspects of California child custody law and are ready to hear from you. Reach us by calling 415-789-5881 or contact us online any time.