In matters of divorce, things can get a little complicated—who gets the house? Who gets the car? Who is responsible for paying off the credit card?
As essential as some of these questions may be, there is one question that is the most important: Who is going to care for the children?
Your children are not property; they are living, breathing beings who may be affected by this divorce more than you realize. It is important to develop a child custody plan that is not just right for you and your ex-spouse, but for the wellbeing of your children. It is best if you can easily come to an agreement on this matter, but as our law office sees on a daily basis, that is not always the case.
How Child Custody Works in the California Court System
If you and your spouse cannot agree on custody or visitation, you will need to hire an experienced San Francisco family law attorney and bring your issue to court. In nearly all cases, you will be required to try a mediation session first; this means that you and your spouse will sit down with a neutral, trained counselor hired by the court and she will try to help you work out a plan without involving the judge. There are many divorcing couples who find this to be an effective way of coming to a custody agreement and they are often happy with the money they save as well. If your divorce involves darker issues like domestic violence or substance abuse, going to the judge directly may be your best option in ensuring the safety of you and your children.
Whether you do mediation first, or go straight to the judge, there are a few main types of custody situations that you will have the option to pursue. Remember that custody in California has two parts to it: legal custody and physical custody.
- Legal Custody. This has nothing to do with where the child lives and centers around who is responsible for important decision-making. It involves education, health, and religion; where your child will go to school, what kind of health care they will receive and whether or not they will practice a religion.
- Physical Custody. This part of custody determines where your child or children will live on a daily basis.
Keeping those two parts of child custody in mind, they break down even more into different categories:
- Sole Legal Custody. One parent is in charge of making important decisions regarding the child's education, health and religion. The other parent can voice his or her opinion, but the parent with sole legal custody does not have to take their opinion into consideration.
- Sole Physical Custody. The child lives with one parent most of the time. It is common for the other parent to get visitation rights, but the parent with sole physical custody is still the primary caregiver.
- Joint Legal Custody. Both parents are given equal decision-making responsibilities when it comes to important topics.
- Joint Physical Custody. Both parents have the right to have their children for a certain amount of time that ensures frequent contact with them.
There are many factors that go into the judge determining what the best situation would be, but their main goal is to make sure your child or children will be well taken care of and live in a stable environment.
Your San Francisco Child Custody Lawyer
Fighting for custody of your children is not something you want to do without the help of an experienced child custody attorney in California. The stakes are too high to try to navigate the legal system alone!
The Law Offices of Paul H. Nathan concentrate on family law in the San Francisco area; this includes divorce, child custody, child support, and spousal support. Paul Nathan and his staff will fight hard to make sure you receive the custody and support you're hoping for. We would love to speak with you, so call us today at 415-341-1144 to schedule a consultation.