Child Custody

Courts have discretion in deciding with whom children will live, but they are guided by two principals: maintain the status quo and provide frequent and continuing contact by both parents with minor children.

The Ultimate Goal is to Meet Two Principles

The courts are empowered by the Family Law Code to make orders for the custody of minor children. The courts have discretion as to what custody/visitation schedule they order, but they are guided by several basic statutory principles. The court must put the child’s health, safety, and welfare first. Second, unless it is not in the child’s best interest (for instance, in situations of child abuse or domestic violence), a custody/visitation order must take into account the statutory policy that children have frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents have separated or divorced. Family Code Section 3020(b) states that both parents should share the rights and responsibilities of rearing their children, except where the contact with one or more of the parents would not be in the child’s best interest.

Courts expect parents to make an honest effort to work collaboratively to create a custody schedule that is in the child’s best interest. Custody litigation is disfavored as it is time-consuming and expensive. Contested custody litigation is also rarely best for the child. When one or more of the litigants uses the child as a tool to attempt to hurt their spouse, the child is not served. It is the policy preference of the California courts that custody and visitation issues be decided in a collaborative environment outside of the courtroom. This is not always possible, but parties should attempt to work with their spouse to establish a custody and visitation schedule that is best for the children and that will satisfy all family members.

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Exceptions to Standard Child Custody Cases

Domestic violence and child abuse situations are different. A domestic violence perpetrator will not find the court a hostile place if he or she seeks a custody award. Absent circumstance involving domestic violence or a client bent on keeping a minor child away from the other parent faces an uphill battle in court.

All contested custody issues between parties, whether in connection with an initial temporary order, a permanent order, or a modification of an existing order, must be set for mediation pursuant to Family Code Section 3160. Mediation means different things depending on the county. In all counties of California, except for Los Angeles and Orange County, the mediator will make a recommendation to the judge on child custody after the mediation.

In Los Angeles and Orange County, the mediator will not make a recommendation. In these sections, the statutes compel mandatory mediation. It is important for parties to understand what mediation means. As noted above, mediation means one thing in Los Angeles and Orange County and something very different in all other California counties, such as Ventura, Riverside, San Diego, and San Bernardino.

Child Custody Lawyer in Los Angeles, CA

I have practiced law in Southern California for more than 25 years, and my highest priority has always been to put my clients’ needs first. I am willing to negotiate early, settle your case, and take your case all the way to court when needed. My unique approach has helped me receive top ratings from both Avvo and Martindale. If you have a child custody matter that you’d like to discuss with an attorney, reach out to me today. I will analyze the facts and apply my strong understanding of the law to obtain the best result possible for your case.