Of all the matters that must be dealt with during the divorce process in San Diego, child custody and visitation are often the most contentious and emotionally-charged issues divorcing parents must deal with. Going through a divorce is difficult and stressful enough on its own, but having a court decide the future of your relationship with your children can be even more painful and traumatic. There is nothing more important than protecting the well-being of your children and having an experienced and aggressive San Diego child custody lawyer on your side when faced with a child custody dispute can be a tremendous asset to your case. Steve Smith and the family law attorneys at (619) Divorce are committed to providing exceptional legal representation to parents, grandparents and guardians in child custody and visitation disputes and our legal team can help improve your chances of getting a favorable outcome in your San Diego child custody case. If you are facing a child custody matter in San Diego, contact our family law attorneys at (619) Divorce today to schedule your free initial child custody consultation.
Table of Contents San Diego Child Custody Lawyer
Experienced San Diego Child Custody Lawyer
Child custody disputes can be incredibly painful and stressful for parents and children alike. Unfortunately, while the legal system is designed to make the child custody process as fair as possible, with a strong focus on serving the best interests of the child, the outcome of some child custody cases in San Diego does not always reflect the best possible scenario. The judge in a San Diego child custody case will make his or her child custody decision based on the information presented in court, but that does not always reflect the true dynamics within the family unit. For instance, if your former partner has a history of physical abuse or alcohol or drug abuse, the best interests of your child will likely not be served by a joint or shared custody agreement. Unfortunately, unless you can provide proof of the abuse, the court may end up granting that parent custody of your child.
When the well-being of your child is on the line, there is no substitute for experience, extensive knowledge of San Diego child custody laws and the ability to make the child custody process as smooth and painless as possible, and that is what we offer at (619) Divorce. Steve Smith and the family law attorneys at (619) Divorce have successfully litigated hundreds of child custody and divorce cases in San Diego, and our proven history of success in the field of family law has earned us a reputation as one of Southern California’s top-rated divorce and child custody law firms. Not only are we intimately familiar with the divorce process in San Diego and the inner workings of the San Diego legal system, we also care about our clients and their loved ones and will work tirelessly to help you reach a custody agreement that benefits both you and your child. Contact Steve Smith and the family law attorneys at (619) Divorce today for a free evaluation of your San Diego child custody case.
Child Custody in San Diego
The term “child custody” generally refers to the legal and practical relationship between a parent and child and has to do with the parent’s right to raise, care for and make long-term decisions about the child’s education, healthcare and religious upbringing, among other aspects of the child’s life. The standard in San Diego is for the child’s parents to share the responsibility of making these important decisions and coming to an agreement together about what is best for the child. However, when parents separate or file for divorce in San Diego, which parent gets custody can become a contentious issue requiring the expertise of a San Diego child custody lawyer. When the custody and upbringing of a child or children are in dispute during a San Diego divorce proceeding, the court may get involved and decide which parent will have physical and legal custody of the child. In San Diego, child custody may be assigned to one parent or to both parents jointly, depending on the specific circumstances of the case.
California Family Code § 3011
The primary concern in a San Diego child custody case is the best interests of the child, and pursuant to California Family Code § 3011, the court will consider the following factors when making a child custody decision:
- The health, safety and welfare of the child,
- Any history of abuse by one parent against the other parent, against a child to whom the person seeking custody is related or has a caretaking relationship, or against a “parent, current spouse, or cohabitant, of the parent or person seeking custody, or a person with whom the parent or person seeking custody has a dating or engagement relationship,”
- The nature and amount of contact with both parents, and
- The habitual or continual abuse of alcohol, or the habitual or continual illegal use of controlled substances or prescribed controlled substances by either parent.
In line with considering the best interests of the child, barring any of the above issues, the court will typically grant joint or shared child custody whenever possible in San Diego divorce cases, in order to allow for frequent and continuing contact with both parents.
Difference Between Physical Custody and Legal Custody
The most important thing to remember about child custody is that the judge in a child custody case is focused on what is best for the child, not the parents, and there are various types of custody arrangements that the court may implement to best suit the needs of the child. In a San Diego divorce proceeding where child custody is at issue, there are two main types of custody: physical child custody and legal child custody.
Physical Child Custody
The type of child custody arrangement most people are familiar with is physical custody, i.e. which parent the child will physically live with. This is what parents tend to be most concerned about when they separate or file for divorce – which parent will be more actively involved in the child’s day-to-day life. In San Diego, the parent granted primary physical custody by the court is known as the “custodial” parent, and the other parent is known as the “noncustodial” parent. The custodial parent is the parent responsible for the child’s daily care and supervision. In most child custody cases, the noncustodial parent without physical custody is granted visitation rights, which means he or she gets to spend exclusive time with the child on a regular basis.
Legal Child Custody
However, there is also legal custody to consider. Legal child custody is a determination that gives a parent the right to make long-term decisions about the child’s welfare and upbringing, including decisions affecting the child’s education, medical care and religious instruction. In the majority of San Diego child custody cases, legal custody is awarded to both parents, an arrangement known as “joint legal custody.” Parents with joint legal custody of a child share equally in making decisions about the child’s welfare and upbringing and are required to work together to make choices that best meet the child’s needs.
Sole Child Custody
If the court determines that one parent is unfit, or incapable of caring for or making important decisions about the child’s welfare and upbringing, the other parent may be granted sole child custody. A parent with sole custody is granted exclusive physical and legal custody of the child, which means he or she has the legal right to make decisions about the child’s welfare and upbringing without consulting the other parent. This is generally the case when one parent has a history of abuse, drug addiction or other criminal behavior, and while this parent may still be allowed some visitation, it would be much more limited.
The Child Custody Process in San Diego
In San Diego, parents who separate or divorce are free to decide what type of custody arrangement they believe is in their child’s best interest. However, if they are unable to come to an agreement on their own, the court will order the parents to attend Family Court Services (FCS) counseling, the mandatory mediation process required under California law before a child custody dispute will proceed to a hearing. During mediation, the FCS counselor will interview both parents and try to help them come to an agreement regarding the issue of child custody and visitation. If the parents are still unable to reach a resolution, the counselor will make a child custody recommendation to be considered by the judge in the subsequent child custody hearing.
Generally speaking, the state of California prefers to grant divorcing parents joint or shared child custody whenever possible, so long as this type of agreement serves the best interests of the child. However, there are a number of factors the court will consider when making this decision, including the emotional bond between the child and his or her parents, the parenting skills of each parent, the physical and mental health of each parent, the living environment in each home, whether one parent is more actively involved in the child’s day-to-day life, any history of substance abuse or domestic violence, each parent’s willingness to cooperate and promote a positive relationship with the other parent, and other more pressing needs, like financial stability and each parent’s ability to support the child now and in the future.
How a San Diego Child Custody Lawyer Can Help
When it comes to filing for divorce in San Diego and resolving issues involving child custody and visitation, there is a lot of legal terminology that can make the process confusing and overwhelming, especially if you don’t have a background in San Diego family law. Our knowledgeable attorneys at (619) Divorce are experts in San Diego divorce and child custody matters and we can represent you in your child custody, child visitation and child support proceedings, no matter how complicated your case may seem. Deciding on physical and legal custody is an important part of the process for divorced or separated parents in San Diego raising a child together, and if your child custody dispute ends up in court, how you present your case can affect your life and your child’s life for years to come.
Even under the most ordinary circumstances, San Diego child custody cases can be complex and burdensome for both the parents and children. Take equally fit parents who live in the same area and are fighting for custody of their children; even in this case, it can be difficult for the court to determine the best arrangement for child custody. However, there are also a number of other factors that can further complicate a San Diego child custody dispute. If, for instance, the parents battling for child custody live in different states, or if a parent granted physical custody of a child wants to move away and relocate the child to another state, the case automatically becomes much more complicated, involving “move away” requests and more complex visitation arrangements. Whatever the circumstances of your San Diego child custody matter, having an experienced San Diego child custody lawyer on your side can significantly improve your chances of getting a favorable outcome in your case.
Consult Our San Diego Child Custody Lawyers
Determining child custody is a delicate matter and as such, San Diego child custody disputes tend to be extremely complex and contentious. Most child custody arrangements in San Diego give physical custody to one parent and visitation rights and shared legal custody to the other parent. However, San Diego child custody cases don’t always turn out the way you might expect, which is why it is a good idea to hire a child custody lawyer to represent your case. Whether you are preparing for child custody mediation or a child custody hearing in court, it is critical that you have a knowledgeable San Diego family law attorney on your side to ensure that your rights are protected and to help you reach the best possible solution to your child custody dispute. Our compassionate and aggressive family law attorneys at (619) Divorce understand that every San Diego divorce and child custody case is different, with unique circumstances that can have an impact not just on the outcome of your case, but on the rest of your life. Contact our skilled San Diego child custody lawyers at (619) Divorce today to find out how we can help.