Child custody and its associated issues can be one of the most emotionally charged aspects of family law in San Mateo. Disputes regarding custody and visitation rights are incredibly sensitive matters that have a profound impact on the lives of you, your partner, and your children. In these situations, it can be difficult to keep a rational mindset when undergoing negotiations relative to your children.
The state of California has stringent custody laws that require the courts to prioritize the best interests of the child. This can often conflict with the desires of the parents, and it can lead to heavy disputes that can become volatile quickly.
For all matters in child custody and visitation in San Mateo County, consult the legal professionals of Schoenberg Family Law, P.C. We understand the gravity of the situation and impact of the results, and work with you to determine the best outcome for you and your children.
Compassionate Counsel for All Matters of Custody
The attorneys at Schoenberg Family Law, P.C. provide counsel in custody law to clients throughout all of San Mateo County, including those in Menlo Park, South San Francisco, Burlingame, Foster City, Daly City, and San Bruno.
We understand custody law can be an incredibly sensitive topic to broach, so we provide the utmost respect and trust to our clients by ensuring open communication and transparency through the entire legal process. We employ our experience and knowledge to help our clients with all issues regarding custody and visitation, including:
- Custody evaluations
- Visitation rights, including supervised instances, if justified
- Disputes of paternity and DNA testing
- Determinations for financial support, such as child support
- Solutions for parental alienation situations
- Petitions for parent relocations
- Any instances involving child abduction
We strive to put you and your children’s best interests in mind, and prioritize their health and safety above everything. You can trust our knowledgeable lawyers and staff with your most delicate and challenging family law matter; Attorney Debra Schoenberg is a Certified Family Law Specialist with more than 35 years of experience to draw upon.
DEFINING CHILD CUSTODY IN CALIFORNIA
Child custody is referred to as “parenting time” in California. There are many terms that you should know during a custody case in San Mateo County, including the different types of parenting time. In the state of California, it is important to note the differences between legal custody and physical custody:
- Legal custody refers to the right and responsibility of parents to make important decisions relating to the health and general welfare of a child. This can include health care, education and religion.
- Physical custody refers to the right of parents to have their children live with them. It is the physical control and care of a child, such as the child spending a certain number of nights per year with one parent after the divorce.
Within each type of custody lies joint custody and sole custody. The former gives equal custody to both parents, while the latter notes that one parent has the sole responsibility. This means that custody can be assigned in some intricate ways. For example, a parent may have both sole physical and legal custody, but they may also have the option to have sole physical and joint legal custody, or vice versa.
How Is Child Custody Determined in California?
The courts in California never take child custody lightly. When it is up to a judge to decide custody, the courts will carefully review the relevant facts of the case and make a decision that will protect the child’s best interest based on all available information. “Best interest” means what will ensure the child’s physical, mental and emotional well-being. The factors used to make a custody decision often include:
- The child’s ties to either parent
- The child’s age
- Whether the child has any health problems or special needs
- The child’s connection to his or her friends, family and community
- Each parent’s physical and mental fitness (ability to care for the child)
- Any parental history of substance abuse or domestic violence
- The child’s opinion, if he or she is mature enough
The child’s health, safety and happiness are always a court’s top priorities during a child custody case. At a hearing, both parents will have the chance to argue why they should have custody and/or why the other spouse should not, such as providing information about alleged child neglect or substance abuse. Either party can also request a psychological evaluation; note, however, that if one parent’s psychological health is evaluated, both parents will be subject to the same assessment.
Can You Appeal or Modify a Custody Order?
Yes. If you believe that the family court made a mistake when creating your child custody order, you can use an attorney to help you file an appeal in San Mateo County. An appeal asks a higher court to alter or reverse the decision made by a lower court. An appeal will only be accepted, however, if an error was made during the first trial that likely changed the outcome of the case.
If you cannot appeal a custody decision, you may be able to request a modification of the child custody order in the future. You must wait a certain amount of time, however, to request a modification, or it will be denied. In general, you must prove a substantial change in your circumstances has occurred from when the court gave the original order. If you have sought counseling for a substance abuse disorder, for example, you can petition the courts to grant you shared custody or child visitation now that you are in recovery.
Child Custody Cases: Settlement vs. Trial
Not all custody cases are legal battles before a judge. California law first gives all parents the ability to create their own parenting plans. Parents can map out the exact custody arrangement that works for them, including custody on holidays and special occasions. A divorce settlement agreement can save families time, money and stress by avoiding a trial.
However, because of so many custody options, it can often be difficult for two parents to come to an agreement, even in civilized divorces and separations. In cases where an agreement cannot be established, California law mandates that parents must participate in mediation in an attempt to reconcile these issues.
Mediation is much less formal than a trial. It is a meeting between the two parents, their legal representatives (if desired) and a mediator – an unbiased third party who is typically trained in conflict resolution. In these meetings, parents are encouraged to come to a full agreement – but in cases where that may not be realistic, they can come to a partial agreement and leave any irreconcilable issues for the judge to resolve.
Mediation can be a trying period of time that can leave parents in a high state of stress and emotionally drained. An attorney can be an invaluable ally through mediation and can considerably ease your burdens while simultaneously maintaining a sense of progress and rationality through the ordeal.
If mediation doesn’t work, arbitration is the next type of alternative dispute resolution available. Arbitration is more formal than mediation and may end in a binding child custody agreement if both parties agree to this in advance. Otherwise, the custody case will go to the family law courts for a judge to determine the best parenting plan based on the circumstances.
Experienced, Professional San Mateo County Custody Lawyers
The Schoenberg Family Law Group, P.C. has more than 35 years of experience negotiating and litigating all matters of custody law and divorce. Our team of legal professionals includes certified specialists in family law, so you can ensure that you have experience, education, and knowledge by your side.
Custody law is a highly sensitive topic that can raise the ire of even the most mild-mannered parents. The San Mateo child custody attorneys at Schoenberg Family Law Group, P.C. are respectful of your needs and your priorities, and maintain a line of open communication and trust that can hopefully ease any stresses through the process.
If you would like to discuss your options for any matters in custody law, please contact us online or call us at (650) 761-9523 today for a consultation.