In many cases, the parties themselves can make their own decisions about legal and physical custody. These decisions are incorporated into a settlement agreement which both parties sign, along with a judge. It is only when the parties are unable to agree on child custody, visitation, and support issues that a California court must intervene. In reaching child custody, visitation, and support decisions, California courts look to many issues, including the best interests of the minor children, among other factors.
Legal custody may be either joint (shared) or sole and refers to the legal decision-making powers held by one or both of the parents. Decisions that fall under the umbrella of legal custody including the following:
- Medical care
Physical custody has to do with where (and with whom) the minor children will live. Like legal custody, physical custody may be either joint (shared) or sole. When one parent has sole physical custody of the minor child or children, the other parent will likely be entitled to reasonable and liberal visitation. Visitation schedules, which usually allow for visitation time with the non-custodial parent over the summer, during Christmas Break, Spring Break, on weekends, and during other holidays, are incorporated into a final decree of divorce. A final divorce decree is signed by a judge and is a court order. Therefore, failing to abide by the terms of the visitation agreement or marital settlement agreement can result in a finding of contempt.
Both parents are responsible, at least to some extent, for supporting the parties’ minor child or children. Modifying physical and/or legal custody can also result in a child support modification, based upon a material change in circumstances.
Best Interest of the Child Standard
In all cases involving child custody, support, and visitation, the "Best Interest of the Child Standard" comes into play. In order words, California courts primarily consider what is in a child’s best interests when it comes to making decisions or modifying custody, visitation, or support. Courts will look to the following factors when determining what is in a child’s best interests; the child's:
- Emotional needs
- Medical and physical needs
- General welfare and educational needs
In making child custody, visitation, and support decisions, courts will also look to the facts presented (as opposed to mere allegations). They will also look to the evidence presented by the child’s mother and father – and in some cases, the child.
Contact a Fresno Child Custody Lawyer Today to Discuss Your Case
Custody cases can be very hard on children and families. An experienced child custody lawyer may be able to help streamline the process for you. An experienced child custody lawyer may be able to assist you with drafting an effective marital settlement agreement and can represent you throughout negotiations and litigation, as well as at trial, if necessary. Contact Rick Banks Law today at (559)222-4891