Child custody relates to the rights and responsibilities parents share regarding their children. When parents separate their first thought is often what will happen to my kids? This can be a frightening time for families and it is important to proceed with caution. If parents cannot reach an agreement then they must initiate a case with their local court. The family court may be the first courtroom you have ever experienced - and the stakes are high. Going to court and placing your family's future in a judge's hands can be terrifying. Asking a judge to determine what is best for your child is unthinkable for many parents.
This is why we counsel our clients based on all aspects of the child custody process, in order to ensure they make informed decisions. This might include issues relating to parenting time, legal decisions for the child, schooling, moving away, therapy, co-parent counseling, mediation, finances, restraining orders, jurisdictional issues, and the likelihood of a favorable outcome at a contested hearing. It is important to our attorneys that their clients do not feel caught off guard by the outcome of their hearings, and they understand both the process and the range of possible outcomes.
The family law attorneys at the Law Offices of Russo & Prince, LLP, help parents and families in all manner of California divorce, child custody and family law matter. We proudly serve the communities of Solano, Napa and Contra Costa, providing strong, effective representation in child custody matters resolved through negotiation, mediation, or litigation. When you retain an attorney you are looking for guidance you can trust. We do our best to advise our clients based experience, a deep understanding of the case, our ongoing training in the fields of matrimonial law and child development, and your needs.
Located in Suisun City, only minutes from the Fairfield Courthouse, we proudly serve the communities of Benicia, Vallejo, Green Valley, Suisun City, Fairfield, Vacaville, Travis AFB, Dixon, Rio Vista and Cordelia, as well as Napa and Contra Costa Counties, in all contested and mediated child custody matters.
California Child Custody Law
California law recognizes two types of custody - physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody refers to the actual care and possession of the child - in other words, who the child lives with. Legal custody concerns the authority and responsibility to make decisions regarding the child's upbringing in areas such as education, religion, and health care. In either case, sole custody may be granted to one parent alone, or custody may be shared in a joint custody arrangement. Some form of shared custody is usually favored by the court. Some circumstances where joint custody may not be appropriate include cases of severe domestic violence, where one parent poses a risk to the child, one parent abuses drugs and/or alcohol, one parent has abandoned the child, or the child's age and gender strongly support choosing one parent over the other.
Often when people refer to "50/50 custody" - what they really mean is an equal parenting schedule, and not custody at all. Parents may share joint legal and physical custody on paper, but one parent may be awarded substantially more parenting time than the other.
If parents can't agree on custody orders, a court will make a decision based on what a judge determines is in the best interests of the child. It is important to make sure that the facts are properly presented to the judge in order that an informed decision can be made that doesn't jeopardize your rights and ability to play a meaningful role in your children's lives.
Child Custody Visitation
Shared custody inherently involves the creation of a visitation or parenting plan. This parenting plan will state when a child will be with either parent, how and where the transportation will take place, and how any emergencies, changes, or disputes will be handled. This plan may also limit certain activities by either parent during their parenting time, such as travel outside of a certain region, drinking alcohol, or contact with certain people.
Visitation or 'parenting time' is also usually granted in sole custody cases as well, unless it would present a danger to the child. In rare cases supervised visitation may be utilized to ensure the child's safety and comfort. For instance, a very young child who spends most of the time with one parent may feel more comfortable visiting the non-custodial parent if the custodial parent is present. Or a parent may request supervised visitation if there are issues of family violence, drugs, alcohol abuse, sexual abuse or other highly dangerous behavior. Visitation may also be supervised by another adult or an agency.
We Can Help You Avoid Taking Your Child to Court
Wherever possible, we recommend alternatives to litigating child custody disputes, such as child custody mediation and Collaborative Law. Child custody should be about protecting your children and doing what is best for them - so why put them through a process that might harm them if you can avoid it? Regardless of how you feel about your spouse, you love your children, and most likely the other parent does too. A collaborative solution that recognizes these facts, and respects everybody's needs and wants, is the best way to create a long-term solution that works for everyone. A collaborative approach is voluntarily implemented without repeated trips to court, and without involving government agencies for enforcement. For many parents this is a relief.
The truth is, unless the other parent poses a risk of serious harm to your child, or has walked away, you will need to engage in some form of co-parenting. We can help your family co-parent with dignity and respect, without giving up your rights, for the benefit of everyone involved.
We also understand that as one party to the dispute, you cannot always control how the issue will be resolved. Our experienced attorneys have been practicing family law for decades and are experienced in litigating child custody disputes, working to protect their client's rights and interests and helping them to achieve their goals in the courtroom as well as at the negotiating table.