Child custody, visitation, and relocation issues are some of the most challenging issues divorcing or separating parents face. At Madigan & Lewis, LLP, we take our responsibilities as advocates for our clients in custody matters very much to heart.We work with both mothers and fathers and take a child-centered approach to our cases. We understand the many factors that determine judicial custody decisions and the questions that must be addressed for our clients to achieve the outcomes they seek. We tailor our approach to the specific circumstances of the case and the courtroom, remaining mindful of the individual approaches of the judges before whom we appear.
In appropriate cases, including those headed for a Brief Focused Assessment or full custody evaluation, we consult with child development specialists.
Like most states, California bases its custody determinations on “the best interest of the child.” In practice, this generally means the court looks to safeguard the child’s health and welfare, while preferring custody and visitation arrangements that provide for frequent and continuing contact with both parents.
There are two forms of custody, legal and physical, and either form can be sole or joint.
A parent with sole legal custody has the power to make decisions on the child’s behalf about health, education, residency and welfare. Where the power is joint, both parents can make those decisions. Joint legal custody does not contemplate a situation in which the parents will necessarily confer and agree to each decision. Instead, each parent is empowered to make such decisions independent of the other. Parents are expected, however, to confer regarding important decisions.
An award of physical custody amounts to a determination of where the child will reside. Should the court grant sole physical custody to one parent, the child lives primarily with that parent and, in most circumstances, that noncustodial parent will be granted visitation rights.
When physical custody is joint, the child resides with both parents, but the timeshare between parents is not necessarily equal or 50/50. It is not uncommon for a child to spend more than half of his or her time in one household.
Unlike many court orders, custody orders are not etched in stone and are modifiable. Children change, parents change, and circumstances change, and the law’s concern for the best interests of the child means custody determinations can always be revisited.