Child Custody & Visitation

Child custody and parental visitation are sensitive, critical aspects of family law litigation, and decisions made in that process will have a significant impact on your children and your parenting role.

In California, courts must consider the best interests of the child when hearing child custody and visitation matters. This standard requires the court to weigh various factors.

California distinguishes between “physical” and “legal” custody. If a parent is awarded “sole physical custody,” the child resides with that parent. The court may issue orders allowing visitation to the parent who does not have “physical” custody. If the parents have “joint physical custody,” then the child resides with both of them, for a timeshare division that is equal or roughly equal between the parents. A visitation schedule is arranged to define this timeshare.

If a parent is awarded “sole legal custody,” that parent has the exclusive right and responsibility to make decisions about the child’s health, education, and welfare. If the parents share “joint legal custody,” both parents are legally entitled to share in such decisions.

California contemplates that child custody can be assigned in a number of ways and it does not presumptively favor any particular arrangement:

  • A parent may have sole physical and sole legal custody
  • A parent may have sole physical and joint legal custody
  • The parents may have joint physical and joint legal custody
  • A parent may have joint physical custody and sole legal custody

The state grants both the court and the family wide discretion to establish a parenting plan that serves the child’s best interests. When parents cannot agree to a child custody agreement, California law mandates that they participate in court-ordered mediation where the parties will attempt to reach a mutually agreeable compromise.

In California, court mediators will facilitate either a “confidential” or “recommending” mediation based on whichever county the court mediator is situated. In counties with “confidential” mediation, the sole purpose of the mediation is to attempt to reach a full agreement on the child-related issues so that the parties will not have to appear before a judge. In times where issues are numerous and the parties are simply not able to reach full agreement on all, the parties may reach a partial agreement, while leaving any outstanding issues for the judge.

In counties practicing “recommending” mediation, the mediator will issue to the court a report with recommendations on any issues the parties cannot resolve. The court will often, but not always, issue a temporary custody order based on the mediator’s recommendations. Both parents have a statutory right to a child custody trial, the result of which will be the issuance of permanent orders.

It is in your best interest, and that of your children, for you to have an attorney to advise you during mediation and advocate for you during these adversarial court proceedings. NBDH LAW will provide you with knowledgeable, compassionate, and responsive representation every step of the way.