Child Custody Attorney in Orange County, CA, Looking Out for Your Child’s Best Interests
Children are too often the innocent victims in the breakup of adult relationships. In many situations, though, such breakups are best for everyone involved. Unfortunately, this can lead to complex child custody issues that require court orders to settle. California courts are primarily concerned with the best interests of children when determining custodial issues. As many parents have learned, however, there’s not always agreement over what is in a child’s best interest. In situations such as this, a child custody lawyer in Orange County, CA may be able to help.
The law favors custody arrangements that give children frequent and continuing contact with both parents. Children have a right to know that they are loved by both parents—and the right to not be caught up in their parents’ hostility toward each other. Establishing workable custody arrangements as quickly as possible can be critical to a child being able to thrive after their parent’s divorce or separation. At the Law Office of Patrick O’Kennedy, we have handled thousands of child custody cases. Let us help you reach a beneficial solution for your child by contacting us today for a free consultation.
Physical and Legal Custody
If you’re in a custodial dispute with a former partner, both physical and legal custody will need to be determined. Physical custody dictates where a child will reside. In instances of joint physical custody, a child will live with both parents. It’s often impossible to split time equally among parents due to logistical concerns, though, so children will typically stay with one parent more than the other. In such a situation, that individual is known as the “primary custodial parent.” This is very different than a sole physical custody arrangement—where a child will live with just one parent while visitation orders (potentially) exist for them to spend time with the other.
Legal custody is the right and the responsibility of the parent to be involved in some of the most important decisions in a child’s life. It’s possible that a court will grant joint legal custody even in instances where a sole physical custody order is in place. This means both parents will have an equal say in important decisions, even if the child lives with just one parent. Legal custody is an important part of family law. Whoever has such custody has the right to make decisions about a child’s:
- Child care and schooling
- Mental health
- Extracurricular activities, vacation, sports, and other activities
These are very obviously some of the most important decisions in a child’s life. This is why courts will often grant joint legal custody—described in more detail in the next section—even in instances where physical custody is not shared. The important thing to remember is that these decisions will be based on the best interests of the child. Of course, there will be instances when you may know what’s best for your child—but you’re unsure of how to prove it in a courtroom. For instance, situations involving domestic violence may have gone unreported to the police. However, that doesn’t mean they never happened.
Child custody attorneys have many more resources at their disposal than the average Californian. If no agreement can be reached between parents and a child custody case becomes necessary, a legal professional can help establish the facts of a case and show the court what’s really in a child’s best interest. Family law can be quite complex in the Golden State, but with a child custody lawyer on your side, coming to a custodial agreement that’s beneficial for a child can be much simpler.
What Is Sole Legal Custody vs. Joint Legal Custody?
A legal custody arrangement dictates who makes important decisions for a child. When sole legal custody is granted, it means only one parent makes these decisions. Even if a joint physical custody arrangement is in place, a sole legal custody order means one parent will frequently not have a voice in parenting decisions involving religion, healthcare, residency, and other important life issues. This can present extreme difficulties for the parent who has no say over important choices for their child. This is why so many people opt to speak with child custody lawyers when dealing with family law matters.
In joint legal custody arrangements, both parents have a voice in important decisions. In fact, each parent can make these decisions on their own. There’s not even a requirement under California family law for them to consult with the other parent. However, such actions can lead to bitter disagreements and further litigation. This means creating a parenting plan can save a lot of headaches and costly courtroom visits. Experienced child custody lawyers can help you iron out such an agreement so that your child can live their lives with minimal disruption and without dealing with the constant turmoil in their parents’ relationship.
What Do Courts Consider in California Child Custody Cases?
As this guide has mentioned several times, courts will typically decide on a child custody battle based on what’s in the best interest of that child. This can result in sole custody—either legal or physical—or a joint custodial parent agreement. Of course, it can be difficult to decide what’s in the best interest of a child—particularly if there’s no evidence that a parent’s relationship with their offspring is unhealthy. So, how is it that California courts can make such important decisions that affect the lives of both parents and children?
While there are no deadset rules that courts follow—regardless of what other family law attorneys may imply—there are specific issues that a judge will factor into their decision. In any child custody case, family law courts will consider a variety of aspects to help them make the right determination. While some of these factors are very apparently more important than others, a judge will look at the entirety of a situation before making a decision.
The most important factors considered by courts include:
- Child’s age
- Child’s health
- History of drug use or domestic violence
- Child’s wishes (at a certain age)
- Emotional ties between the child and their parents
- Whether a parent is financially or otherwise able to care for a child
- Child’s ties to community, school, and home
These factors must be considered by the court. A judge’s decision for legal or physical custody cannot be based on the gender of the child, the marital status of the parents, religious beliefs, or other unrelated issues. Child custody attorneys can help ensure such inappropriate decisions are not reached. Of course, situations can change over time. If you have a court order in place regarding custody and who will pay child support, it’s not necessarily a permanent order. If new information comes to light or a situation has changed, you can ask the court to adjust the orders.
Such family law matters can be complex, though, and convincing courts to change their own orders can be a tough hill to climb. That’s especially the case if something drastic—such as an arrest for a serious crime or significant change in housing—has not occurred. Such legal issues are better presented by professionals who work for law offices. And since you can get free initial consultations—at least with the attorneys at the Law Office of Patrick O’Kennedy—there are zero excuses to not seek out advice to better understand your legal rights.
Do I Need a Child Custody Attorney?
When you’re in a custody dispute, there’s no requirement in California that you hire an attorney. Many people opt to handle child custody cases on their own. The most common reason behind this is the belief that doing so will save money. After all, not having an attorney in child custody proceedings means you’re not paying a professional. Unfortunately, opting to represent yourself can prove to be much more costly than the price of an attorney. To put it simply, it’s more difficult for an individual to build a strong case when they don’t have experience in dealing with such family law issues.
Even if you ignore the fact that the average person isn’t experienced in such matters, though, trying to handle child support, custody, and similar issues on your own can be prohibitive. The necessary paperwork is complex, and you might spend hours simply filling it out and researching what you need to know. This also creates the potential for filing mistakes and the overlooking of possible strategies that could help your case. And if you’re trying to seek sole custody due to domestic violence or other issues, you’ll have an uphill battle without legal representation. That’s because California courts typically prefer to split parenting time evenly.
If there’s a reason the courts shouldn’t do this, having a family law attorney on your side can help you better explain the facts to a court.
How to Choose Between Family Law Firms
When it comes to child custody law firms in Orange County, CA, there’s no shortage of attorneys to choose from. Many of these legal professionals are outstanding in their fields, so choosing a lawyer to represent you in family court may seem like a daunting task. Whenever you’re deciding on who to have on your side in court, though, there are a few specific considerations that can make your choice easier. These include:
- Legal experience: An attorney who passed the bar yesterday may be a genius in their field. Unfortunately, they simply don’t have the legal experience that offers real results. Even if they’re just as knowledgable as other legal representatives, they haven’t had time to establish relationships in the local court system.
- Family law experience: Legal experience is great, but not all legal experience matters. For instance, having your real estate attorney cousin handle your paperwork might save a few dollars — but they don’t have the knowledge necessary to build a strong case. Always go with experienced child custody lawyers.
- Online reviews: The internet provides the possibility to see what others say about family law services before ever making a decision. Whether you’re seeking primary custody or simply looking for a better situation for your child, take the time to read over online reviews.
- Free consultations: No parent should ever have to pay just to speak with an attorney. Whether you’re going through the divorce process or need a child custody attorney years after an original court order, find a legal professional that offers free initial consultations. This will help you better understand your situation before doing anything.
Just as a judge considers the whole picture prior to making a custody decision, you should consider the entirety of these factors when choosing a child custody attorney. Upholding your legal rights while ensuring the best interests of your children are accounted for is important. Child custody and visitation can be quite complex, so find the best representation to help in your case.
Contact a Child Custody Lawyer in Orange County, CA Today
In California, custody decisions are made based on the best interests of the child. Neither parent is favored by the court when making this determination. This means a child custody case can go in either direction based on what will prove most beneficial for the child. In most cases, this will end in a situation where both individuals hold some parental rights. Unfortunately, what’s best for a child will not always be apparent if both parents are not forthcoming. In these situations, the complexity of child custody laws means having family law attorneys on your side can prove beneficial.
Patrick O’Kennedy is a child custody lawyer in Orange County, CA that has handled thousands of cases involving guardianship and custodial issues. With over 20 years of experience in family law—representing both fathers and mothers—our law firm frequently is successful in reaching satisfactory results for our clients. When litigation is necessary, it is important to have a qualified, experienced attorney to represent you in court. Contact us today by calling (714) 919-1855 for a free initial consultation so you can better understand your rights and the best way to move forward.