"Channe really has your back. Dealing with lawyers and child custody is hard enough, stressful beyond; but Channe and staff really stood strong for me and I got the results I wanted. She totally understood my situation after only one meeting, and was there every step of the way. She also tried to help me keep my cost down. I could not be Happier :-)"
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Santa Barbara Child Custody and Visitation Lawyer

Divorce And Children

Santa Barbara Child Custody and Visitation Lawyer

For many parents, child custody is their most important issue and the most difficult part of a divorce. The prospect of spending less time with your child or losing parental rights 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, and one of it’s biggest sticking points. 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 the Law Office of Channe G. Coles, we understand the importance of maintaining a 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.

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 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 and 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 child(ren), to include decisions relating to the health, education and welfare of the minor child(ren). “Joint legal custody” means that both parents share in the decision-making.

When granting joint legal custody, the Courts generally look for these factors:

  • Parents mutually agree to joint legal custody; 
  • The parents are able to co-parent the child(ren) and reach agreements regarding the child(ren)’s best-interests; 
  • The court determines, after having carefully considered the facts and evidence, that it is in the best interest of the child(ren) to award joint legal custody.

Situations where the Court will usually grant sole legal custody to one parent are:

  • Parties cannot reach agreement on sharing legal custody; 
  • There is only one parent in the picture—e.g. one of the parents has abandoned the child(ren) or disappeared; 
  • The court, after carefully considering all facts and evidence, determines it is in the best interest of the child(ren) to award sole legal custody to one parent.

It is important to remember that in family law, the court can award, or the parties can agree, on various types of custody:

  • Sole legal to one parent and joint physical custody to both parents;
  • Joint legal and joint physical custody to both parents; 
  • Sole legal to one parent and sole physical to the same parent; and 
  • Sole physical to one parent and joint legal to both parents.

Why working together works best

The state grants both the court and the family wide discretion to establish a parenting plan that serves the child's best interests. In most instances, the child's best interests are served when the parents work together to find a custody solution. There are many benefits to negotiating a parenting arrangement. The reason is that that you know what is best for your child and your individual schedules. Turning the decision over to the court means that an unfamiliar person will decide who gets more time with the child, and where the child will live.  

Because of this, most judges usually prefer that the parents decide on their own parenting agreement and will not interfere unless there are problems between the parties. 

In cases where the parents cannot agree on custody and visitation arrangements, the court will ultimately make this decision for you. To arrive at this decision, the court may even order a custody investigation or a child custody evaluation otherwise known as a 730 evaluation. 

Mediation as a prerequisite to a judicial hearing

If you end up going to court on the issue of temporary custody 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. If one or both parties cannot do so, then litigation will be necessary.

Santa Barbara Child Custody and Visitation Lawyer

Santa Barbara County court mediation is entirely confidential. In confidential mediation, 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. The mediator will report back to the judge on whether or not an agreement was reached but will not expose the content of any discussions.

Importance of Temporary Orders 

In the time between filing and the final judgment (and final custody orders), and assuming the parties have not reached a mutual agreement, the court will make a temporary order regarding child custody at the first Request for Orders hearing. 

Both parents have a statutory right to both temporary orders regarding custody and ultimately, 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, to have an attorney to advise you and advocate for you during these initial adversarial court proceedings.  This is especially true because the length during which temporary orders are in effect can effect the way in which the judge orders on final custody at the time of judgment.

Knowledgeable Counsel And Effective Representation

Attorney 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 child(ren) 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; establishment or modification of visitation rights. Attorney Coles effectively litigates legally complex, high-conflict matters, such as:

  • Custody evaluations,
  • Supervised visitation when warranted,
  • Paternity actions and DNA testing,
  • Parent relocation petitions,
  • Parental alienation remedies,
  • Child support determinations, and
  • IRS dependency exemptions for children

To speak with attorney Coles at the Law Office of Channe G. Coles about child custody and visitation in Santa Barbara County, please visit us online at www.ccsblaw.com or call us at (805) 617-4618 for a free confidential consultation.

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