Determining child custody is often one of the most emotional issues in a family law case. Custody is an issue in any case where a child is born and the parents (or interested third parties) are seeking a determination of rights and responsibilities over that child. This includes: divorces, termination of domestic partnerships, legal separations, annulments, parentage/paternity actions, domestic violence restraining order requests, and even grandparent custody/visitation actions.
At the law office of Gary A. Cornwall we are experienced in the legal process and specific county rules regarding child custody and visitation. We work with parents to determine what custody and visitation schedule works best for their particular child and family. Every family is different and every child has different needs.
Many times, custody and visitation agreements are easily agreed to when parents see eye to eye on a parenting plan. The law office of Gary A. Cornwall can help you draft a comprehensive agreement, which would become the Court’s order. However, when parents do not agree on what is best for their child, utilization of the Court process is necessary. This would entail a mediation process with the Family Court Services, or utilizing a forensic child custody evaluator either selected by the Court to conduct a full evaluation of what is in the best interests of the child.
When the Court discusses and makes orders about custody, the Court is concerned with two types of custody, which are Legal Custody and Physical Custody.
Legal Custody allows a parent to make decisions regarding his or her child’s welfare. This includes the right to decide a child’s medical, educational, and other welfare related decisions. Parents may have joint legal custody, or under some circumstances, one party may be awarded sole legal custody.
Physical custody refers to the parent or parents with whom the child resides. Similar to legal custody, parents may be awarded joint physical custody, or alternatively, one parent may be awarded sole physical custody. Even if one parent has sole physical custody, this does not mean that the other parent is not given visitation rights. Visitation orders are a separate order made by the Court.
The determination of custody can be a complicated matter and is very fact specific. We will discuss your individual custody case and help you arrive at a custody agreement that works for your family. If you are unable to agree with the other parents, we will vigorously advocate on your behalf.
Visitation refers to the time that the parents have with the minor child. Even if a parent does not have custody of their child, he or she may have visitation. A visitation order may be general and simply state “reasonable visitation,” or it may involve a detailed order that sets forth the exact days and times that a child will be with each of their parents. Additionally, holiday, vacation and summer schedules may be determined by the parties and/or court.
In determining a visitation order, it is California’s public policy to foster frequent and continuing contact between both parents and the child. There are cases, however, when such an arrangement may not be appropriate. For example, contact with a parent may be limited when it is found by the Court that it is not in the child’s best interests, such as in circumstances of domestic violence, child abuse, sex abuse, and/or alcohol or substance abuse. Addiction issues must be carefully analyzed to ensure the safety of a child.
Visitation can be a complex issue depending on the facts of the case as well as the parties’ willingness to cooperate with each other. The law office of Gary A. Cornwall is available to help you arrive at the visitation arrangement that is appropriate for your specific case in general, and specifically what is in the best interest of your child(ren). We will negotiate your agreement, and if necessary, they will vigorously advocate for you in Court.
Modification of Custody
If you already have a child custody and visitation order and you believe it needs to be modified, or if the other parent is not following the order, this office will represent you to ensure that the order is enforced and/or assist you in the modiﬁcation process so it is appropriate to meet any change of circumstance which has occurred since the date of the last order.
Should you have any questions as to obtaining either an initial custody order or modifying an existing directive of the Court please schedule an appointment with the law office of Gary A. Cornwall. Bring with you copies of any pleadings, orders, or other information pertinent to this issue. Such a consultation may be made prior to the issuance of an order, or should you deem it appropriate, to get a second opinion if you are in the process of obtaining one. All information shall be deemed privileged and confidential.