During a divorce, it is important for parents to keep in mind the best interests of their children. For many, that means agreeing to a joint-custody arrangement where the children live with both of their parents. Yet while joint custody sounds straightforward -- children live with their parents equally -- it actually varies depending upon the circumstances. A California family law attorney can help you understand what it involves, so you can work out the best arrangement for you and your children.
What is Joint Custody?
When people think of joint custody, they often think of children split between the parents 50-50. In fact, there are several types of shared custody. The 50-50 scenario takes place in a "pure" joint custody situation, where neither parent has sole legal or physical custody of the child. It may also take place in a joint physical custody arrangement, where each parent has "significant periods of custody," so that the children have "frequent and continuing contact with both parents." However, joint physical custody does not require an even split -- just that they children live with both parents. Then there is joint legal custody, where parents share the decision-making responsibilities on issues like their children's education and welfare. There may also be divided custody arrangements, where each parent has sole custody of one of the children.
How Will My Custody Situation be Determined?
As we mentioned in earlier posts about child custody, courts generally look at what is in the best interest of the child. In a best-case scenario, the divorcing spouses will have already come up with a custody arrangement that just needs court certification. When both parents have already agreed to a joint-custody arrangement, there is a legal presumption that it is in the best interest of the child. Otherwise, the courts will look at the child's health, safety, and welfare; any history of abuse by one of the parents; the nature and amount of contact between the child and each parent; whether one parent uses illegal substances; whether the parent can adequately care for the child; and the child's ties to the community.
Courts no longer automatically award custody to the mother. A judge could decide that based on the above, the father should be the main custodial parent even in a joint custody situation.
How Can I Ensure That Our Joint-Custody Arrangement Is Successful?
Parents who have sat down and discussed an arrangement before coming to court are most likely to be successful. The animosity often present in custody situations will be minimal, ensuring that the child is happier and more secure. Otherwise, the most important thing is for both parents to provide a safe, stable home environment within or near the community where the child has grown up. Many arrangements will specify that your child must go to school in a certain district. If one parent needs to relocate for a job, that can seriously impact the joint-custody arrangement. If you must relocate, you should petition the court to have your joint-custody agreement modified.
What if I Don't Support the Arrangement?
You have the option of challenging it in court. If it is an arrangement that you and your spouse decided on before going to court for approval, that could be difficult. As always, keep in mind what is in your child's best interest.
Beck Law P.C. is located in Santa Rosa and offers an entire scope of divorce services to clients in Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Cotati, Rohnert Park, Sebastopol, Healdsburg, Sonoma, Kenwood, Glen Ellen, Windsor, Bodega Bay, Ukiah, Willits, Clearlake, Lakeport, Kelseyville and throughout Sonoma, Mendocino and Lake County.
Beck Law P.C. offers a no cost, no obligation initial consultation and can furnish the experience and knowledge to help guide you as you come to the decision to divorce or not divorce.
Making an appointment to meet with us is not a decision to file for divorce. It is merely an investment in exploring what options may or may not apply to your particular situation. Your visit to the Beck Law Offices is confidential, as is the information discussed. You can contact our office at 707-576-7175 or contact us online.