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Hossein BerenjiIf you are having child custody or visitation issues, call Berenji & Associates today do discuss your best legal strategy. Our family law attorneys have 20 years experience dealing with custody matters throughout Los Angeles. We understand how emotionally difficult it can be fighting for custody of your children, and we will give your case the attention it deserves. Call us for a free consultation.

Custody Overview

Child custody refers to the care, control, and financial support of a minor child. Pursuant to California Family Code § 3020, the primary concern of the court when making a custody determination is to ensure the child’s safety, welfare, and health. This section of the family code further states that it is public policy that children have “frequent and continuing contact with both parents” after the parents separate, unless it would not be in the child’s best interest. The factors the court considers when applying the best interest of the child standard, discussed in more depth below, can be found in Family Code § 3011. There are two types of custody: legal and physical.

Physical Custody

Physical custody refers to where a child will live after his or her parents are divorced or separated. In other words, a physical custody stipulation or judgment determines what percentage of time the child will live with each parent. There are two types of physical custody determinations the court can make:

Joint Physical Custody

In a joint physical custody arrangement, the child will live with each parent. The percentage of time a child lives with each parent will depend on many factors such as:

  • Where the child goes to school,
  • How much each parent has to dedicate to the child, and
  • Any other factors the court deems relevant to the determination.

Sole Physical Custody

In some instances, the court may decide to award sole physical custody to one parent (See California Family Code § 3007). This may happen for many reasons. For example, it may simply make more sense for the child to live exclusively with one parent of the other parent travels a lot or lives far away.

Alternatively, the court may award sole physical custody if there is evidence of abuse or drug use. The parent with physical custody is known as the “custodial” parent, whereas the other is the “non-custodial” parent.

If you do not have custody, note that the noncustodial parent cannot be denied access to records and information regarding the child, including medical, dental, and school records. (See California Family Code § 3025). In other words, the non-custodial parent can call the child’s school and/or doctor to get attendance or medical records, for example.

If the other parent is making allegations against you, or you are concerned with your child’s welfare, speak to attorney Hossein Berenji today.

Legal Custody

Legal custody means the right to make major decisions about the child’s

  • Education,
  • Health,
  • Religious upbringing, etc.

For example, a parent with legal custody will be able to determine where a child goes to school, what sports and recreational activities a child will engage in, and whether a child will receive religious instruction or attend religious services.

Legal and physical custody are distinct notions. For example, one parent might have sole physical custody while sharing legal custody. That means both parents participate equally in the decisions regarding the child’s health and education.

Joint Legal Custody

This arrangement allows for both parents to make decisions regarding the child’s life. A parent’s physical location is less relevant when determining legal custody, as decisions regarding a child’s welfare and education can be made from afar.

Sole Legal Custody

According to California Family Code § 3006, sole legal custody means that “one parent shall have the right and the responsibility to make the decisions relating to the health, education, and welfare of a child.” In situations where one parent alleges abuse or drug use, the court may award sole legal custody to one parent. Additionally, the court may award sole legal custody to one parent if the court believes that the parents cannot mutually make decisions regarding the child’s best interests.

Best Interests of the Child Standard

Under California Family Code § 3080, there is a presumption that joint custody (physical and legal – California Family Code § 3002) is in the best interest of the child.

If either parent challenges this presumption, the court will hold a hearing to decide based on the “best interest of the child” standard. The court will consider the relevant factors set forth in California Family Code § 3011. Some of the factors the court shall consider are:

  • Health, safety, and welfare of the child,
  • Any history of physical or sexual abuse,
  • Nature and amount of contact with both parents, and
  • Habitual or continued use of illegal drugs

As a California Court of Appeal stated, the standard is “an elusive guideline that belies rigid definition.” Its purpose is to maximize a child’s opportunity to develop into a stable, well- adjusted adult. (Adoption of Matthew B. (1991) 232 CA3d 1239, 1263, 284 CR 18.). How your case is presented and how the court perceives you is critical. Therefore, it is wise to make sure you have a skilled attorney with a proven track record fighting for you.

Additional Considerations

If you decide to settle your custody matter, make sure you are comfortable with the arrangement. The court will give the existing order a substantial amount of deference should you ever want to modify it at a later time. For that reason, speaking with a family law attorney should be a top priority.

Mr. Berenji has extensive experience handling child custody matters. This includes:

Unfortunately, child custody disputes can get complicated and expensive. Additionally, they often involve third-party experts (known as “730 evaluators”) who give independent feedback to the court. Please make sure you have an attorney representing your interests.

Children rarely benefit from a protracted custody battle. Therefore, we focus on negotiating to reach a positive settlement. Rest assured that if your ex-spouse chooses to be uncooperative, we are prepared to litigate on your behalf. Our experience in the Los Angeles family courts gives you a distinct advantage if trial becomes necessary.

Call Our Los Angeles Child Custody Law Offices

If you are having a dispute regarding custody of your child(ren), call Los Angeles family law attorney Hossein Berenji today for a free consultation. Let our qualified team assess your situation and come up with a winning strategy.

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