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When parents separate or divorce, they must decide on several issues that affect their child. Similarly, parents who do not live together may need to legally establish the same issues. If the parents agree, their wishes can become part of the court’s order and be enforced if it becomes necessary. If parents have trouble coming to an agreement about custody, visitation, or support, their attorneys can negotiate and use mediation to help them arrive at an equitable arrangement. If not, the family court will be left to make the final decision, a situation that unfortunately does not usually bring about terms that work as well as when the agreement is made by the parents themselves.
There are two kinds of child custody. Family law court requires that parents decide on legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody is about who will make decisions regarding the child’s welfare such as those involving healthcare, education, and similar matters. Physical custody is about where and with which parent the child will primarily live.
Parents can choose to share physical and/or legal custody, or they may choose to have one or both types of custody assigned to only one parent. For example, if only one parent has the responsibility and right to make important decisions for the child, this is called sole legal custody. If both parents have the right to make a decision for their child, this is called joint legal custody.
The courts strive to ensure that children have frequent and continuing contact with both parents, unless it can be proven that this would not be good for the child. A parenting plan must be created (preferably by the parents themselves) that outlines the details of each parent’s time with their child. The family law courts want parents to work together as they create a plan that benefits each family member. The primary focus must be on what is best for the child or children. If needed, the court may allow only supervised visitation with one of the parents.
Depending on several factors in each family’s circumstances, child support may be awarded to one of the parents. The amount will be determined by the court’s formula. This formula is complex and designed to account for many considerations. Child support is typically paid until the child reaches the age of 18. There are special circumstances where the court will order support to continue past this age. Similarly, the parents can also agree to extend support if they believe it to be best for the child.
When circumstances change for one of the parents, they may need to modify their previous agreement and the court orders for visitation and/or support. This may happen when one parent moves away or has a change in their income. Parents can agree to change the order, or one or both can request that a family court judge make the change.
Modifications could also be needed if circumstances develop indicating that visitation should be revoked or changed to supervised visits only.
When parents are not able to agree on custody or visitation matters, their attorneys can try to negotiate terms that satisfy both parties. If the parents are still unable to come to an agreement, the court will order mediation. The court-
The goal of court-
To learn more about how to handle legal issues involving separation, divorce, and your child, contact The Law Office of Robert M. Baskin at (805) 658-
1. Who decides how much visitation each parent gets?
Ultimately the court has the final say on how much visitation each parent will have, but in a practical sense, it is usually the parent with primary custody that will decide. If the other parent is not happy with the arrangement, they can either work out a better schedule with the parent that has custody, or seek help from the courts. The court option is relatively more time-
2. What is supervised visitation?
Family court judges may impose supervised visitation when a parent wants to get acquainted with their child after a long absence or after never having spent time with them before. They may also require that visits be supervised when there have been allegations of an unsafe situation such as drug/alcohol abuse, mental health issues, child abuse, domestic violence, or concerns about kidnapping.
Supervised visits are conducted with a neutral third party present to watch, listen, and ensure the child’s safety. This third party (also called the provider) is required to be there for the entire visit, listen to what is said, be attentive to the child’s behavior, report suspected abuse, and end or interrupt the visit if they have any concerns. The provider can be a professional provider with special training and background checks, or it is often acceptable for the provider to be a family member or friend.
3. Does joint custody mean equal parenting time?
If you and your child’s other parent want to share custody, this is called “joint custody” and means that both parents have some custody rights. The details will vary according to each family’s circumstances and agreement, but this does not mean that the child will be spending exactly half of their time with each parent. This would be difficult for most families to achieve. Sometimes, if the child spends more than half of their time with one parent, this parent would be referred to as the “primary custodial parent,” but this is still a joint custody arrangement.
4. How do I get child support orders changed?
If circumstances have changed and you believe that a modification should be made to your child support order, the court may be able to grant what is called a “post-
If both parents are in agreement about a change that they wish to make, the court can be notified so that the new arrangement becomes a part of the court order. If the other parent does not agree to the proposed change, you can ask the court to make the change. Your attorney can help you in both situations.
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