Child Custody Lawyers in Sacramento
Putting Your Needs & Your Child’s Best Interests First
Determining child custody is among the court’s most important decisions. At The Law Office of David A. Martin & Associates, our team of experienced child custody lawyers have represented thousands of clients from diverse backgrounds and circumstances. Each case is unique and each client is extraordinary, so we focus on presenting evidence that explains why clients must have custody of their child. We look forward to helping you establish fair and favorable custody and visitation arrangements.
How is Child Custody Determined?
There are a number of mitigating factors that the court takes into account when awarding child custody.
Courts may consider:
- Each parent’s relationship with the child
- Each parent’s contributions to raising the child so far
- The parents’ willingness to co-parent and cooperate with each other
- Any history of abuse or neglect
- Any history of drug or alcohol abuse
- The child’s preference (if he or she is mature enough)
In most circumstances, a child sees his or her parents as equals, and any change that takes place in a relationship due to the process of divorce can have a severe emotional impact on the child. Our attorneys understand the complexities of the relationships between children and their parents when they no longer reside under the same roof because of custody arrangements and divorce.
What Is a Fair Child Custody Arrangement?
Legal and physical custody can be awarded to one parent or to both parents. The law prefers custody be awarded “to both parents jointly.” However, the trial court is vested with “wide discretion” to create a parenting plan that serves the best interests of the child.
The primary policy concerns are:
- Protecting the child’s physical and emotional health, safety, and well-being, and
- Ensuring (where appropriate) the frequent and continuing contact between the child and both parents.
It can often seem that these stated policies are being ignored, and having experienced counsel to represent your interests is critical to ensuring your rights and those of your children are protected.
The Court must make orders determining both legal and physical custody of minor children. Legal custody determines the right of a parent to “make the decisions relating to the health, education, and welfare of a child.” Joint legal custody is most common, but the Court can give legal custody to just one parent. An order for sole legal custody is usually made only where one parent has been abusive or has unreasonably interfered with the other parent’s exercise of custody or has demonstrated a history of highly unreasonable parenting decisions.
Physical custody refers to the physical care and control of the child, including where and with whom the child lives. Understandably, parents often focus on the label applied to their physical custody order; however, in most cases, that label is relatively meaningless except where the custodial parent later seeks permission to relocate with the child. In that case, the difference can be very important.
Other issues that often arise in custody discussions include:
- Choice of school
- Participation in sports
- Extracurricular activities
- Medical treatment
- Day care providers
- Issuance of passports
- Driver's licenses
- Methods of discipline
Importantly, before the court decides your custody case, you will be required to participate in custody mediation, where you and the other party will have an opportunity to settle your disputes. If you do not reach an agreement, the mediator will make a recommendation to the judge. This is a very important aspect of your case, and we have developed a time-tested protocol to help prepare you for success in mediation.
Our experienced Sacramento child custody lawyers will work directly with you to first understand and then present your best case to the court and to the custody mediator. In all things, our goal is to make decisions that minimize your risk of failure and maximize your chance for success.
Custody cases are often emotional and can become volatile. In general, involvement in a family law case puts at risk two very important aspects of your life: your children and your finances. Having a trusted legal advocate can make all the difference in the protection of those interests. Our child custody attorneys are competent professionals that can insulate you from the day-to-day demands and stress of litigation, freeing you to concentrate on your family, your job, and other life goals.
Changing a Custody Order in California
After a family court judge issues an order on custody, the question becomes whether either parent has the right to seek a change or modification of that order. The answer is often based on whether the order to be changed was intended as “full and final determination” of the custody issue, or merely as a temporary order. It also matters when the request to change is made, relative to the former order.
Generally, the Court will always do what it deems to be in the best interest of the child. However, if the prior order is a final determination, relevant California case law requires the moving party establish a material change of circumstances resulting in detriment to the child before a prior determination of the child’s “best interest” will be disturbed. This rule does not apply if the prior order is considered a temporary order – though in most counties the Court will disfavor a new motion brought within 6 months of a prior order.
California Courts recognize there are many valid reasons to change an existing custody order. For example, a child’s needs, activities, interests, or wishes may change. And as each parent starts a new chapter in their life, factors like new jobs, new partners, and new homes can all be reasons to change an outdated parenting plan.
As a quick side note, parents should also be aware that child custody and child support disputes are entirely separate issues. For example, if you are the noncustodial parent and the custodial parent is not letting you see your children for any reason, including parental alienation, you still have to continue paying your monthly child support payments. Otherwise, you can face serious repercussions.
Ensuring Fair Parenting Plans
If parents are unable to work out an agreement, the court will step in and make a plan that maybe neither parent will like. Our firm’s attorneys will work directly with you to create and present a fair parenting plan that best serves the needs of your children and the parents. If the other parent has a different plan, we will do our best to convince the judge that your plan is the best.
Science informs us that children benefit from a continuing relationship with both parents, so long as both parents are healthy and focused on the children’s well-being. Separation of parents can be a major event in the life of a child, and we understand that age-specific developmental milestones can often be a major influence on whether a child thrives or just survives under a court-ordered parenting plan.
Our attorneys endeavor to work directly with the client to understand the needs of the children who are subject to such orders, and to craft a parenting plan that offers them their best chance to thrive.
If you need assistance with a child custody matter, contact The Law Office of David A. Martin & Associates to schedule an initial consultation with an attorney from our firm.
How Do You Win a Relocation Case?
In some cases, a judge will issue orders stopping both parents from changing the residence of the children from a specific geographical area. If you are planning to relocate a significant distance from the other parent of your children, you have to tell him or her of your intention.
Custody cases in which one parents wishes to relocate with the children—sometimes called “move-away cases”—are in many ways the most difficult to resolve. There often appears little room for compromise because one parent intends to live a great distance away. Consequently, the court must decide not whether there must be a primary custodial parent, but who will be that parent. In an increasingly mobile economy, move-away cases have become more common. Our experienced child custody lawyers know the well-developed legal precedents that guide the trial court’s decision, but that may not tell the whole story because litigation may or may not be the best solution. Creative thinking is often the key to resolving a move-away case. Importantly, whether anyone presently intends to relocate, understanding the impact of current court orders on any future decision to relocate can be a very important consideration. Planning your defense or setting a foundation for your future decision to relocate is a proactive way to gain an edge in future litigation. If you are presently facing these decisions, our experienced child custody attorneys can help litigate or negotiate a workable custody order that best serves your needs.
The divorce and family law experts at the Law Office of David A. Martin & Associates can represent you in your request for relocation. We can also represent you if you are trying to prevent the custodial parent from relocating with your child.