Family law child custody processes vary by state, and California always puts the safety and well-being of the child as its top priority. If you are going through a divorce or are seeking family law attorneys in Orange County for child custody legal advice, get to know the typical procedure for deciding on custody accommodations for your children.
Step 1: Attempt to Work Out Custody Arrangements Between Parents
Parents of children undergoing separation may be able to come up with custodial, visitation, or support arrangements between parties without going to court. In fact, this is very common; about half of the 14.4 million custodial parents in the U.S. had child support arrangements in 2013. In California, the negotiated agreement must also be approved by a judge in writing.
Step 2: Mediation
If the parents involved cannot come up with a satisfactory custody arrangement on their own, they will, under state law, have to work with a trained family law child custody mediator, who will attempt to continue to settle negotiations outside of court.
Step 3: Court Hearing
If mediation fails and the parents still cannot decide on arrangements, the case will go to a court where a judge will determine child custody and support.
Typically, family law child custody decisions — whether made outside of court by the parents or in court by an official judge — include orders regarding:
- Legal Custody: In other words, the division of responsibility involving the child’s education, medical care, and legal well-being. This can be joint or assigned to only one parent.
- Physical Custody: This determines where and with whom the child will live. Again, this can be shared between parents, but arrangements must dictate a schedule that accommodates holidays and birthdays.
- Visitation: If physical custody is assigned to one parent, the other may still request visitation rights, or the ability to spend time with the child according to an arranged schedule. A court may also request that visitations are supervised, especially in cases with a history or drug abuse or domestic violence. As many as 4.8 million women are victims of domestic violence every year, and courts make sure to protect children against any possible threats of abuse.
- Child Support Payments: It’s important to include any child support payment arrangements within court agreements, since they so often go underpaid or unpaid at all. Estimates suggest that only 62% of all child support is received, or about $311 of the $500 owed.
When planning for the future of your child, understand your options and your legal rights. Speak with an experienced family law firm about your case in order to ensure you get the best arrangements possible for you and your loved ones.