Establishing and Modifying Custody in California

Serving Clients Throughout Sonoma, Mendocino, Lake, and Napa Counties

Divorce and separation take a lot out of us. We enter relationships with the hope of something meaningful and lasting. In some cases, these relationships result in having children together – whether the relationship was brief or long-lasting.

When a relationship ends and children are involved, the circumstances take on a whole new direction in determining who will get custody and what visitation rights will be given to the other parent. Every state has different parameters that will be considered in custody cases, so it’s important to understand how California courts establish and modify custody orders.

Best Interest of the Child

We’ll address this right away as it applies to both establishing and modifying custody. You’ll hear this frequently because the courts will always act in the best interest of the child. This means that what both parents want may not match up with the reality of the case.

Courts have an obligation to the child to protect them and make sure they’re provided for. If both parents are jostling for custody then the courts will put the child in whatever position they believe will provide the best circumstances for the child. You should keep this in mind when making choices about where you live, who you spend time with, and how you take care of yourself.

Types of Custody in California

California recognizes two types of custody: legal and physical. These are separate orders that can both be fulfilled solely or jointly depending on the circumstances.

With legal custody, one or both parents will be given the right to make important decisions such as education, healthcare, and welfare for their child. With physical custody, the court will determine which parent(s) the child will live with.

Determining Factors

We already established that the best interest of the child will take precedence over any other factors, but determining what the best interests of the child actually are will take several other factors into account. For instance, if the child has grown and lived in one home for their entire life then whichever parent remains in that home may gain favor for custody. The same can be said for schooling – if the child has been doing well in a school district but would need to change districts with one of the parents then custody may remain with the parent who lives in their original district.

Other factors listed by the courts include:

  • The age of the child
  • The health of the child
  • Emotional ties between the parents and the child
  • The ability of the parents to care for the child
  • Any history of family violence or substance abuse

Modifying a Custody Order

Once the court has taken a look at all these factors and made a determination, it’s imperative to understand the order is not final. Custody orders are modified when the circumstances surrounding the best interest of the child have changed.

Were you unable to provide for the child before but are now more capable of doing so (maybe through a new job or promotion)? You may be able to gain additional rights. The same can be said if you’ve gotten sober from previous substance abuse issues or improved your overall relatinship with your child.

One of the situations where the court will not automatically make a modification is if one of the parents is moving, especially when the move is far away. Many custodial parents believe they can up and move when they please but, because of the court-ordered custody, they must actually get approval from the court in order to do so. There’s no guarantee it will be approved even if that parent got a new job or promotion that allows them to provide more for the child. The move must truly serve the interest of the child to prevent the court from deciding the child cannot move with the parent.

At Carroll Law Office, we work with clients to make sure they get the best results possible out of their custody cases. Every case is different and parents have different circumstances present that impact their chances of getting physical or legal custody. If you need help establishing or modifying your custody order, contact our law offices to get started. We can help you simplify life’s complexities.

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