Child Custody Lawyers
in Riverside and Santa Ana
Family Lawyers in Riverside and Santa Ana, California
The end of a relationship or marriage can be difficult for most people, but it can be even more emotionally fraught when the couple shares children. Child custody disputes are among the most difficult issues to deal with in divorces. Even if you and your former partner are trying to remain amicable during the process, there are critical obligations and rights that you should understand and ensure that you are protected. Whether your child custody matter is hotly contested or amicable, you should work with an experienced child custody lawyer to protect your rights and the best interests of your children.
The child custody lawyers in Riverside at the Fontes Law Group have extensive experience helping their clients with child custody and other related family law matters. We understand the difficult emotions our clients contend with when they are dealing with custody disputes and can help by providing an objective view of the issues and possible solutions. We work closely with our clients and help them understand the best interests of the child standard and what courts consider when making child custody decisions. Our attorneys vigorously advocate for our clients and work to achieve the most favorable outcomes possible in their cases.
Child Custody Law in California
Child custody in California refers to the legal relationship between a parent and child and the parent’s right to make important decisions on the child’s behalf. There are several child custody laws in California that you should know when you are dealing with a child custody dispute. Under Cal. Fam. Code § 3020, it is the state’s public policy for courts to ensure that the welfare, health, and safety of children are the primary consideration when making child custody decisions. The state also considers allowing children to have frequent and ongoing contact with both parents to be important.
When you and your child’s other parent end your relationship, child custody will be an issue. If your split is amicable, you will need to create a parenting plan that you both can agree with for the times your child will spend with each of you. If you can’t agree, the court will determine the parenting plan for you based on what is in your child’s best interests.
The child custody lawyers in Riverside at Fontes Law can help you understand the factors courts consider when determining what is in a child’s best interests. They can also help to negotiate with your child’s other parent to try to create an agreement that is fair and also protects your interests and those of your child.
Meet Family Law Lawyer
Catherine J. Navarro
Types of Child Custody in California
Child custody in California includes legal and physical custody. There are also multiple ways in which each of these types of custody can be ordered.
Legal custody refers to the ability of a parent to make decisions about their child’s religious upbringing, education, and medical care. Courts can order joint legal custody under Cal. Fam. Code § 3003 or sole legal custody under Cal. Fam. Code § 3006.[2,3] The court can also order you to share legal custody for some decisions but grant sole legal custody to one parent for others. For example, a judge might grant joint legal custody to both parents to make decisions about their child’s medical care and education but order sole legal custody to one parent to make religious decisions when the parents differ in their religious beliefs and can’t agree about their child’s religious upbringing.
If joint legal custody is issued, you and the other parent must agree on the important decisions about your child’s education, medical care, and religion. By contrast, if sole legal custody is ordered, one parent will have the authority to make decisions for the child without having to consult the other parent.
Physical custody refers to the parent or parents with whom the child will reside. Like legal custody, physical custody can be ordered jointly or solely.
Under Cal. Fam. Code § 3004, parents with a joint physical custody order will each enjoy substantial time with their children. However, it does not mean that the child will split time equally between the parents.
Sole physical custody can be ordered under Cal. Fam. Code § 3007. If sole physical custody is ordered, it means that the child will reside exclusively with one parent. The other parent might receive visitation rights with the child if it is in the child’s best interests.
Since the public policy of the state is for a child to have continuing and frequent contact with both parents, sole physical custody orders are rare. However, if there are significant issues such as a history of abuse, domestic violence, drug or alcohol abuse, or other factors that could endanger the child’s safety, health, and welfare, sole physical and legal custody might be ordered. A child custody lawyer at the Fontes Law Group can help you understand the type of custody orders that might be appropriate in your family’s case.
The Best Interests of the Child Standard
Courts make legal and physical custody orders according to what is in the child’s best interests instead of what is in either parent’s best interests. Under Cal. Fam. Code § 3010, both the father and the mother have equal rights to custody. Neither parent is given a preference based on gender.
Under Cal. Fam. Code § 3011, courts must make child custody decisions based on the best interests of the child. To determine what is in the child’s best interests, the judge will consider the following factors:
- The child’s health, safety, and welfare
- Whether one parent has a history of abuse against the other parent, the child, another child, a current spouse, or a cohabitant
- The relationship between the child and each parent
- The type and frequency of contact of the child with each parent
- Whether one parent chronically abuses drugs or alcohol
- Whether one parent is likelier to encourage the child to have frequent and continuing contact with the other parent
- The child’s adjustment to his or her current home, school, and community
- Other relevant factors
Your attorney at the Fontes Law Group can help you understand how the best interests of the child factors apply in your case. You will need to present evidence showing that an award of legal and physical custody to you is in your child’s best interests. The evidence can include documentary evidence and testimony.
Resolving Child Custody Disputes
In many cases, it is possible to resolve child custody disputes outside of court through negotiation. If you can reach a negotiated agreement for legal and physical custody, including the parenting time each of you will have with your child, you, your child, and the other parent might be happier with the outcome. This is because each of you will have more control over how child custody will work instead of leaving the decisions up to a judge who does not personally know any of you.
However, there are some situations in which litigation will be necessary. For example, if there is a history of domestic violence, child abuse, drug or alcohol abuse, or other serious problems, fighting your child custody case through a trial might be important to protect both your safety and that of your child.
If you and your child’s other parent do not have a history of serious problems but are struggling to reach an agreement, another option is to go through mediation. Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution process that occurs outside of court. In mediation, you and your child’s other parent will meet with a trained mediator.
Mediators are neutral third parties who facilitate agreements. If you reach an agreement during mediation, the agreement can then be submitted to the court and will become the court’s child custody order in your case. However, if you can’t reach an agreement through mediation or negotiation, your attorney will advocate for you and take your case to a child custody trial.
Child Custody Modifications
In some cases, the circumstances of the child or either parent will change after an initial child custody order is issued. Either parent can request a modification of the original custody order. However, you must be able to show that the changes in circumstances are to such a degree that a modification is warranted.
Some of the reasons why a court might modify a child custody order include the following:
- Change in a parent’s work schedule that makes the parenting plan unworkable
- Change in the child’s needs
- Change that places the child in danger of emotional or physical harm when with one parent
- Child is mature enough and has expressed a wish to spend more time with one parent
- Non-custodial parent has moved closer and wants additional parenting time
- Parent with primary physical custody wants to relocate with the child
- Irresponsible behavior by one parent such as failing to get the child to school on time or other behaviors
- Parent refuses to follow the existing child custody order
If any of these types of situations have occurred, talk to the attorneys at the Fontes Law Group about a child custody modification.
 Cal. Fam. Code § 3020.
 Cal. Fam. Code § 3003.
 Cal. Fam. Code § 3006.
 Cal. Fam. Code § 3004.
 Cal. Fam. Code § 3007.
 Cal. Fam. Code § 3010.
 Cal. Fam. Code § 3011.
Get Help From Our Experienced Child Custody Lawyers in Riverside
If you are embroiled in a child custody dispute with your child’s other parent, you should reach out to a child custody attorney at the Fontes Law Group in Riverside. Our attorneys have extensive experience and knowledge about the child custody laws in California and can help you understand your rights. Contact us today to schedule a consultation so that you can learn more about your legal options.