Child Custody &
Click here to read the article
"Visitation Hesitation" co-authored by T. Elizabeth Fields, which was
published in the Daily Journal on July 11, 2008.
The custody and visitation of a minor child or children are often the most contested issues in a family law case. The public policy of the State of California is to enable a child to have frequent and continuing contact with both parents absent extraordinary circumstances. Courts do not just consider time share when making custody and visitation determinations. Rather, the Courts are interested in how much involvement and what role each parent plays in a child's life.
If Court intervention is necessary, it will often look to the "stability" factor in a child's life when making initial custody and visitation determinations. Custody and visitation at the initial stage of a case and prior to Judgment are set depending upon the best interests of a child. Whereas before their separation the parties may have enjoyed unfettered access to their child, after separation, each party's respective time with his or her child will be limited to the timeshare allotted by way of a stipulation or a Court order, unless the parties are able to be flexible and cooperative with their respective parenting schedules.
Determination of child custody and visitation ensures reliability, predictability and foreseeability in each parent's life in regard to his or her child. Parents will want to determine at the onset what type of custody they will have. Labels such as 'joint physical custody', 'primary physical custody', 'sole physical custody', 'sole legal custody' and 'joint legal custody', may determine the rights and privileges accorded to each parent when raising his or her child. Courts will be concerned with how the parents communicate with one another and if effective co-parenting is possible.
As a child grows, his or her needs also change, making custody litigation an ever evolving arena. Often a parent wants to merely seek a fluctuation of time with his or her child without changing the status of custody (i.e. joint physical custody, sole physical custody, etc.) Sometimes, one parent may want to move away with the child and thereby deprive the parental rights of the other parent, though unintentional.
Often parents are willing to agree to resolve their child custody and visitation issues via their Court stipulations and orders. They frequently include not only the basic time schedule, but also a holiday and vacation plan and specific provisions for raising their child. These types of stipulations must incorporate a great amount of aforethought and consideration to the unpredictability of the future, while making certain that the client will be involved in the major decision making of his or her child's life as a minor.
Because often times the child is young at the time of the divorce, later disputes may occur as situations and events occur in a child's life. Thus, the issues of custody and visitation may continue to linger long after the final Judgment of divorce is pronounced. For this reason, cases involving a minor child or children are rarely "over" until each minor child has reached the age of majority and all support obligations have been satisfied.
Since custody and visitation are some of the most important issues to be resolved in a divorce action, well qualified legal representation is essential.
For more information and a consultation with T. Elizabeth Fields please call (310) 860-7661.