Child Custody and Visitation: What You Need to Know

Hossein Berenji, Jun 09, 2022

The parties in a divorce, paternity proceeding, or legal separation action have a laundry list of issues to deal with. Primary among them is where their children are going to live. This issue touches on deep emotional matters that are important to the parents and the children. Because of the importance of this issue, it is crucial that you understand how a Los Angeles court will decide where your children will live during a divorce, paternity, or legal separation action and what the possible outcomes are.

How Do Courts In Los Angeles, California Determine Child Custody?

According to California law and public policy, the California courts’ main concern when it comes to determining child custody is making sure that children have frequent and continuing contact with both parents after they divorce or separate unless it would not be in the children’s best interest. In fact, California law holds that courts are supposed to presume that joint custody is in the children’s best interest.

California law regarding child custody raises an important question: what is the child’s best interest? To determine a child’s best interest, California courts will weigh various factors such as:

  • The health, safety, and welfare of the child;
  • The history of abuse between either of the parents and the child;
  • The nature of the child’s contact with each of the parents;
  • The parents’ use of illegal drugs and/or alcohol.

The court will reach a determination after analyzing these factors and after hearing from each parent (or their attorneys). When parents can agree on a parenting plan, including where the child is going to live, the court will typically consider the agreement to be in the child’s best interests.

How Do Parents File For Custody Of The Children In A Divorce Case?

When the parties agree on a parenting plan, they do not have to file a request for an order for a parenting plan, and can instead prepare a written agreement, also known as a stipulation, and send the stipulation to the court for a judge to sign and process.

On the other hand, if the parents are unable to agree on a parenting plan, one of the parents must file a request for an order, requesting that the court enter an order regarding child custody. More specifically, the party filing a request for an order will propose their ideal custody arrangement and ask the court to use that in the court’s order. After receiving the request for an order, the court will schedule a mediation and a hearing.

What Is Mediation And Is It Required In California Child Custody Cases?

California law requires that parents in a divorce, paternity proceeding, or legal separation action mediate any issue related to child custody. Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution method where a neutral or uninvolved party, a mediator, meets with the parents and tries to help them in resolving the custody issue.

The parents will meet with the mediators for several hours with or without their lawyers and try to create a realistic and workable parenting plan. The issues discussed in mediation are confidential and may not be discussed later on if the custody matter goes to trial. If the parents can create a parenting plan, it can be signed by the judge and entered as a final parenting plan. If the parents are unable to reach an agreement, the custody issue will go to a hearing and/or trial.

What Can The Court Order When Deciding Whom A Child Will Live With In A Divorce, Paternity, Or Legal Separation?

Where a child lives is something called “physical custody.” In a physical custody determination by the court, there are usually two possible outcomes:

  • Joint: In a joint custody arrangement the child will live with each parent. The court will evaluate what kind of timesharing schedule is in the child’s best interest according to the legal factors it must review.
  • Sole: In a sole custody arrangement, the court will award one parent, the “custodial parent,” all or most of the overnights with the child. The other parent, the “non-custodial parent,” will receive visitation with the child. The court may decide to award sole custody for many reasons, such as logistical issues or if the non-custodial parent suffers from chronic drug use.

Within these two options, there are variations depending on the facts and circumstances of the case.

A Divorce Lawyer Can Help

If you’re not sure how child custody issues will play out in your case, it’s important to hire an experienced divorce attorney to protect your interests. As this blog post illustrates, child custody issues can be complicated, and it’s crucial to put your best foot forward throughout the proceedings. Hiring an attorney early on in the process helps ensure the outcome of your divorce is as palatable as possible.

Contact the family and divorce law firm of Berenji & Associates for help today.

If you’re going through a divorce, you need a strong team on your side fighting for your rights. Call Berenji & Associates today to know how we can assist you.

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