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California law encourages parents to work through their disputes in ways that allow for frequent and continuing contact between each party and their minor children. When you and the other parent are able to accomplish this, you model behaviors for your kids that may help them to themselves one day be better parents. Parental conflict is distressing and destabilizing for children, and should be avoided.
Unfortunately, however, sometimes this just isn't possible. Some parents suffer from substance abuse, mental health issues, rage, are physically abusive, or simply are not interested in actively caring for their kids. Others feel that what is really at stake is money in the sense that limiting time share may increase the amount of support that the other parent must pay, or they may seek a larger time share that they don't intend to exercise in order to decrease their child support obligations.
We believe, that it is important that child support obligations be met and be paid on time, but that parents should not hold each other hostage to timeshare and money demands. Studies suggest the when people parent cooperatively; child support tends to get paid without objection or delay.
Whatever your circumstances, you will benefit from competent legal assistance. The fact is that an experienced family law attorney knows how to present the evidence in a way that is most helpful to the client and their children, and knows what not to do. Unrepresented parties constantly get themselves into trouble and only then seek legal help, when it may be too late to "un-ring" the bell in terms of what a Court has decided.
Legal custody deals with the rights of parents to share in the decision-making over children's schooling, medical care, religious training, and activities. California judges, and therapists and psychologists, almost universally prefer joint legal custody arrangements, except when one parent is absent or has a history of problematic behavior. As a practical matter, however, the concept of legal custody is not nearly as important as that of physical custody - since whoever has physical custody at any given moment is generally entitled to make all relevant decisions that are needed to be made.
The term physical custody describes how parents manage the day to day sharing of children. Joint physical custody doesn't mean that parties have equal time with the children, although a 50-50 arrangement is obviously joint. It really implies that both parents are equally fit to be primary parents, but custody and visitation schedules can be quite diverse and still be termed "joint." For instance, one parent may be the school time mom or dad and the other may have frequent weekend, mid-week, holiday, and summer visitations.
Where parents do not agree on who should have what days, family court judges will issue orders based upon the evidence and their perceptions of what is in the children's best interests. The best interest standard governs all disputed custody cases. It is important to note that as children age their developmental needs evolve, meaning that a parenting arrangement that made sense at one phase may no longer be in a child's best interests. At the Spiekerman Law Office we commonly handle custody modifications where circumstances have changed in ways that require parents to re-negotiate or return to court to update custody and visitation orders.
The custodial arrangement is particularly important where one parent intends at some point in time to relocate and change the children's primary residence. These are called "move-away" cases. The actual timeshare between each parent and the minor children is extremely significant in this complex area of the law because the burden of proof changes in ways that may benefit the non-moving parent so long as the lower timeshare parent's physical timeshare generally exceeds 35%.
Whether you have a move-away or a complex or a simple custody dispute, we can help you.
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