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Changes in the family affect children. For many parents, the toughest part of any divorce or child custody proceeding is the effects on children. As a parent, you always want what is best for them. If you and the other parent don’t agree on what that is, conflict can escalate and everyone suffers—especially your children.
We know how stressful child custody and parenting disputes can be. Like you, we want your children to be happy, safe, and secure, kept out of the middle of your legal dispute. We have a child-centered family law practice, which means that we pursue your goals while prioritizing your children’s well-being.
Many parents who find themselves in a custody dispute do not know what to expect, which can make the situation even more challenging. We help you understand how your case is likely to unfold, explain your options, and work with you to achieve the best possible resolution for you and your children.
When we talk about child custody, we are really referring to two separate things: physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody refers to where a child lives (i.e. “timeshare”); legal custody refers to who makes important decisions for the child, such as those regarding medical care, religion, education, extracurricular activity, and travel.
Parents may have joint physical custody, meaning that the children live with each of them for substantial amounts of time. It is also possible for one parent to have sole or primary physical custody, in which case the other parent would have visitation time with the child. Visitation may take place according to a schedule, or parents may agree to “reasonable” visitation, which allows for more flexibility. Much less commonly, when required for the child’s safety, one parent may have only professionally supervised contact with the child, or no visitation at all.
It is common for parents to have joint legal custody, meaning that they work together to make important decisions for their children. Parents can have joint legal custody even if one of them has primary physical custody. It is also possible for one parent to have sole legal custody over all or some specific decisions.
As a parent, you know your children better than anyone else. You and the other parent may agree on a custody arrangement that works for your family’s needs. If you have trouble reaching a custody agreement on your own, as many people do, you may have success through mediation or by negotiating with your attorneys’ help. If you and the other parent cannot reach an agreement, the court will determine who should have custody.
Courts make custody determinations based on the “best interest of the child.” The judge will consider such factors as the age of the child; the child’s health; the child’s emotional ties with the parents; the ability of the parents to care for the child; any family history of violence or substance abuse; and the child’s ties to home, school, and community. California courts do not automatically favor mothers or fathers in custody disputes. The focus is on what is in the best interest of the child.
We believe that parents are almost always in the best position to decide what’s right for their children. We are dedicated to doing everything possible to help parents reach custody and parenting time agreements based on their family’s unique needs. We work to help you resolve custody disputes in a way that is both dignified and effective, minimizing unnecessary conflict (and the high legal bills that go with it). We are flexible and creative negotiators even in the most challenging circumstances.
In those cases where diligent efforts to negotiate custody are not successful, we are also litigators well-equipped to pursue our clients’ interests—and their children’s interests—in court. We are known among both colleagues and clients for our preparation, skill and strategic advocacy.
We understand what is at stake in your child custody dispute, and we will be by your side at every step of the process, advocating for the outcome that is best for you and your family. Please contact Bednarczyk & Valerio to learn more about how we can help you.