Whether you are divorcing or ending a relationship with a co-parent, child custody can be one of the most difficult legal issues to resolve in your legal matter. The question of how and when you will spend time with your children is an emotional one, and depending on the ages of your children, may need to be revisited many times over the years.
Your children's well-being is your first priority. At Comstock & Wagner, we make it ours as well. You likely have many questions about how child custody in California works. We will take the time to explore your concerns, answer your questions, and create a custody arrangement that works both for your children and for you.
Basics of California Child Custody
The term "child custody" really means two different things. "Legal custody" refers to who gets to make important decisions regarding a child, such as how they will be educated, what religion they will be raised in, and what medical treatment they will receive. "Physical custody" refers to whose home the child resides in.
As a general rule, it is ideal for parents to reach their own agreement on custody and parenting time. After all, they know the needs of their family better than any judge could. If the parents are unable to successfully reach an agreement, the court will decide. California courts have great discretion regarding custody orders. While they may not act arbitrarily, so long as they take the law and facts into account, and base their decisions on the best interests of the child, judges have significant latitude in reaching a custody determination. Because of this, having an attorney who is skilled in family law and familiar with the courts can have a great impact on the outcome of your case.
The State of California believes that it is generally best for parents to work together to make major decisions for their child. Therefore, joint legal custody is typical in California, though not universal. The state's custody laws require that child custody orders ensure that a child has "frequent and continuing contact" with both parents, and for both parents to share in the rights and responsibilities or raising their child. There are, of course, some situations in which it would not be in the child's best interest for one parent to have this authority. In those rare cases, sole legal custody may be ordered.
It is common for California parents to share joint physical custody of their child. This may not amount to exactly equal time with each parent, but each parent would spend substantial time with the child. It is possible for one parent to have sole physical custody, but that does not mean that the other parent has no time with the child. In a sole custody situation, the parent without custody would most likely have parenting time (also called visitation) with the child.
This brief introduction only begins to touch on the complexities of California child custody law. To learn more, we invite you to contact our law office so that we can address your specific questions.
Santa Maria Child Custody Attorneys Serving California's Central Coast
At Comstock & Wagner, divorce and family law, including child custody, are all we do. Our attorneys are California board-certified family law specialists who have demonstrated broad-based and comprehensive experience in the practice of family law, in addition to meeting other stringent certification requirements. Our team is skilled in mediation, negotiation, and litigation to help you navigate the issues you may face in your custody matter, including:
- Initial Custody Determinations
- Modifications of Child Custody and Parenting Time
- Change of Residence Within or Outside California
- Custody Involving Never-Married Parents
- Custody in Military Divorces
- Custody of Special Needs Children
Comstock & Wagner is conveniently located in a private building with off-street parking near the courthouse in Santa Maria. The represents clients throughout the central coast of California, including Santa Maria, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo.
If you have questions about California child custody, we invite you to contact Comstock & Wagner to schedule a consultation. We look forward to working with you.