Child Custody Cases in California: Frequently Asked Questions
When parents cannot agree to the terms of a child’s custody or visitation, the parents may choose to go to court and have a judge provide a temporary order. A court order on child custody is based on the “best interests of the child” which is determined based on various enumerated factors under the California Family Code. A temporary order on child custody will remain in effect until the parents can reach a mutual agreement as to permanent custody or when the issues have been resolved in a trial with a final or permanent order on child custody.
If you are a parent struggling to come to terms about your child’s custody and/or visitation rights, you should consider seeking the guidance of an experienced attorney who can protect you rights. This article will highlight common questions with respect to child custody cases. For more information about your specific case, speak to an experienced attorney who can provide you with the legal support you need.
What is a child custody evaluation?
In certain cases, a judge will decide that it is in the best interest of a minor to have a child custody evaluation, which is an analysis of the facts of the case. The evaluator is a court-appointed expert to assist the court in fact-finding and recommendations as to what type of parenting plan would be in the best interest of the child. For the most part, an investigation will involve interviews with the children involved, the parents, as well as other individuals who could have important information about the matter. Examples of these individuals could be close relatives of the family, school counselors or teachers, or doctors. The evaluation will also typically involve a home-visit so the evaluator can observe the child in their home environment with the parents.
The evaluation can also include the review of various reports that relate to the parents and children such as:
- Police reports,
- Court records,
- Reports from parenting classes, or
- Reports from anger management classes
It is important to note that the assigned evaluator may visit the school of the child and/or the homes of the parents. A custody evaluation can take months and parents are typically required to share the cost of the evaluation.
Mediation versus Child Custody Recommended Counseling
When requesting an order on child custody, or a modification of child custody, the court will set a Child Custody Recommended Counseling (CCRC) for the parents to meet with a counselor in an attempt to come to an agreement as to the parenting plan. The parenting plan addresses issues of legal custody, physical custody and visitation. The CCRC is commonly referred to as a “mediation” however it is not a true mediation. In a true mediation, there is a neutral third-party who attempts to navigate the parties towards an agreement. If no agreement is reached, then the mediation concludes, and the parties continue to litigate their case. Additionally, in a true mediation, anything said or any admission made, for the purpose of mediation or in the course of the mediation, is confidential and inadmissible. However, a CCRC is not confidential. Furthermore, in a CCRC, if the parties are unable to come to an agreement, then the counselor will make a report and recommendation to the Court as to things discussed at the CCRC and the recommendation as to what the parenting plan should be.
How can custody mediation help me?
A true custody mediation can provide parents the opportunity to resolve disputes with the support of an experienced mediator in a confidential environment. Because the mediator is a neutral third-party, they will be open to hear both sides and assist the parties in coming to an agreement. In the event that the parents are able to resolve a disagreement, the mediator could help the parents formulate a parenting plan that will become a custody or visitation order.
The primary objectives of custody mediation are:
- To support parents in making a parenting plan that is in the best interest of the child.
- To support the parents in making a plan that allows the child to equal time with both parents.
- To support parents in helping them learn different ways in dealing with resentment, anger, or other damaging feelings.
Can I change a custody or visitation order?
When a family court has already signed a parenting plan, the parents could change the parenting plan by a mutual agreement, which can be submitted to a court. If the parents cannot agree, one of the parents can make a request for the court to modify the plan. In the event that the parenting plan is part of the final custody determination, the parent seeking to modify custody must show a significant change of circumstances affecting the best interest of the child. In other words, the parent needs to demonstrate that the change will be for the best interests of the child and that the change is a significant alteration of the circumstances surrounding the original plan. Examples of a significant change of circumstances include but are not limited to:
- A relocation that will affect either parties right to custody and visitation
- A parent’s substance abuse or physical abuse
- A felony conviction
- The child’s age and school circumstances
- Special needs of the child affecting the health, safety and welfare of the child
- The violation of the Court’s Order on custody and visitation
For Child Custody Cases, Seek an Experienced Family Law Attorney
When parents dispute the custodial arrangement, the process can be very complex and difficult to endure. This is particularly true if the parents cannot agree on any of the terms of child custody or visitation. If you are a parent struggling to reach an agreement with respect to your child’s custody, seek the guidance of an attorney who can protect your rights.
The attorneys at the Knez Law Group LLP are dedicated to helping parents who are going through a child custody battle. The firm is highly skilled in protecting the rights of parents and their children. If you are a parent going through a child custody dispute in the State of California, seek the legal guidance of an experienced attorney who can protect your rights today.