Child Custody and Visitation
For many parents, child custody is their most important issue and the most difficult part of a divorce, separation, or litigation. The prospect of spending less time with your child can be emotionally overwhelming. Determining child custody and/or visitation schedules can be one of the more daunting challenges of a divorce or parental separation. At no other time is it more important to have a qualified and experienced attorney who will take the necessary care to represent you in a way that ensures your family’s sustained health and wellbeing well beyond the divorce stage.
At Law Office of Channe G. Coles, we understand the importance of maintaining a strong parent-child relationship and stability in your child's life. By providing the court with a clear understanding of your merits as a parent and the sacred bond between parent and child, we strive to establish a fair and equitable custody agreement that protects both your parental rights and your child's best interests. By choosing the Law Office of Channe G. Coles, you will have guidance throughout the process and all of your questions will be answered.
Whether you’re biologically the child’s parent, your child was adopted, or your child was conceived through other medical means, your parental rights are the same. The parent-child relationship must first be legally established before securing child custody and visitation orders and even child support. When you and the co-parent are not married, this process is referred to as a “parentage action.” Law Office of Channe G. Coles can address your parentage concerns in a variety of manners, including presumed parentage, establishing parentage, and by utilizing voluntary declarations of parentage.
Your case is likely different from many others and is based on a unique set of circumstances; it’s recommended you schedule a consultation to discuss the complexities of your case to properly protect your parental rights.
What do Courts Consider When Ordering Custody?
In deciding a child custody case, there are several factors that the court will take into consideration. The court's largest concern in any custody dispute is protecting and promoting, "the best interest of the child.” In fact, this is the standard that is used in deciding all custody issues in California. In making this determination the Courts typically, though not exclusively, assess the following factors:
The age of the child.
The relationship of the child's parents and any other persons who may significantly affect the child's welfare.
The preference of the child, if old enough to express a meaningful preference;
The duration and adequacy of the child's current living arrangements and the desirability of maintaining continuity;
The stability of any proposed living arrangements for the child;
The motivation of the parties involved and their capacities to give the child love, affection and guidance.
The child's adjustment to the child's present home, school, and community.
The capacity of each parent to allow and encourage frequent and continuing contact between the child and the other parent, including physical stress.
The capacity of each parent to cooperate in childcare.
Methods for assisting parental cooperation and resolving disputes and each parent's willingness to use these methods;
The effect on the child if one parent has sole authority over the child's upbringing;
Any history of domestic violence; and
All other factors having a reasonable bearing on the physical and psychological well-being of the child.
At the Law Office of Channe G. Coles, we will aggressively and comprehensively present your case in a manner that takes into consideration all relevant factors. We provide rigorous and zealous representation in seeking and obtaining the right custodial arrangement and schedule for your child.
Understanding California Child Custody Distinctions
Under California law, “child custody” has two parts—physical custody and legal custody. Either or both types of custody can be awarded to one parent (known as “sole custody”) or to both parents (known as “joint custody”).
There are two types of physical custody: sole physical custody and joint physical custody. “Sole physical custody” specifically means that a minor child will live primarily with one parent. Sole physical custody is usually only ordered in the most specific of circumstances. 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. The goal of joint physical custody is to ensure that the minor child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents.
Similarly, there are two types of legal custody—sole legal custody and joint legal custody. “Sole legal custody” means that one parent will have the legal right, as well as responsibility, to make decisions regarding the minor children, to include decisions relating to the health, education and welfare of the minor children. “Joint legal custody” means that both parents share in the decision-making.
The specific factors of your case will determine whether a joint or sole legal and physical custody order is best for your children.
Mediation as a Prerequisite to a Judicial Hearing
If you end up going to court on the issue of child custody or visitation, you will first have to go through a court-ordered mediation process. Pursuant to California law, parents who cannot agree to a child custody agreement must participate in court-ordered mediation, to try to resolve these issues. Of course, mediation is effective only if each party is willing to compromise to reach a schedule that is best suited for your children. If one or both parties cannot do so, then litigation will be necessary.
In Santa Barbara County, mediation is entirely confidential, however in Ventura County, the mediator will make a recommendation to the judge on child custody and visitation. The sole purpose of mediation is to attempt to reach a full agreement on the child-related issues, such that the parties will not have to appear before a judge. The parties can also reach a partial agreement, resolving some issues together and leaving the rest for the judge.
Knowledgeable Counsel and Effective Representation
Channe Coles intelligently counsels her clients to only agree upon child custody arrangements that serve their children's best interests. She will patiently advise you through the mediation process, work toward a fair and equitable custody agreement, and, if litigation becomes necessary, aggressively represent you at trial, with compassion for you and your children at the forefront of her mind.
The legal team at the Law Office of Channe G. Coles can also help you resolve other aspects of custody and visitation, including "move-away" cases, post-judgment modification of custody orders, establishment or modification of parenting plans, and establishment or modification of visitation rights.
To schedule a consultation at the Law Office of Channe G. Coles about child custody and visitation in Santa Barbara or Ventura Counties, please call us at (805) 617-4618.