In a San Diego child custody and visitation case, how can you help your attorney or lawyer? One of the best things you can do for your child to minimize the trauma of divorce is to help maintain some continuity in the child’s life with a reasonable custody agreement. In San Diego, many divorces do not settle due to disagreements regarding child visitation and child custody. Many parents have found this to most contentious issue in their divorce. As such, having some knowledge of the procedures which determine parenting plans in San Diego if the parents do not reach an agreement can be very useful.
There are two types of custody to be determined: physical and legal. Physical custody can be joint, where the child lives with each parent on a set schedule. Or one parent can have sole physical custody while the other parent has scheduled visitation. Usually both parents have legal custody, allowing them to make decisions concerning the child’s education, health care, and religious practices.
The procedure for determining custody and visitation in San Diego County is in the mandatory mediation which includes an evaluation, negotiation and recommendations by a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. If the parties are unable to agree, the social worker will make written recommendations to the court. In most cases, the court’s final determination will be in accordance with those recommendations so it is very important to understand the mediation procedure.
The court’s guiding principle is “the best interest of the child.” There are several factors used to make that determination which include stability, bonding, frequent and continuing contact, sibling relationships, current parenting plans and many more. By honestly reviewing those factors with your attorney, you can be better prepared to negotiate a parenting plan which is in accord with the law. Gender is no longer an issue in the Court’s orders for visitation or custody.
Another factor the court considers is the attitude of the parties. Joint physical custody requires a degree of flexibility, as schedule conflicts inevitably arise. In most situations, the child moves between each parent’s home. But in some situations, the parents take turns staying with the child in the family home and this is commonly referred to as “nesting”. There are advantages and disadvantages to each arrangement, and a successful outcome depends upon individual attitudes and behavior.
Another set of factors the court considers are logistics. Geographic distance between the parents’ residences may make joint physical custody impractical. School, activity and work schedules may be difficult to coordinate. The availability and expense of child care may also be an issue as well as travel costs and other factors to facilitate visitation.
Another set of factors the court considers are relationship factors. Has one party been the primary care giver for the child? What is the relationship of each party with the child? If there are half-siblings or step-siblings, what is their relationship to the child? What extended family relationships exist? By maintaining existing relationships, the child will have valuable emotional support systems to help cope with the breakup of his family.
Another important factor is the child’s age. A joint custody arrangement with a baby or toddler may be easier to implement because school and activities are less likely to contribute to schedule conflicts. The court may also consider the preferences of an older child in determining custody. It is important, though, for parents to realize that sometimes older children will quickly learn to “play” one parent against the other.
One final issue that can arise occurs when one of the parties has international roots, especially if a threat has been made to remove the child from the country.
By discussing these issues in advance with your attorney, you may be better prepared to negotiate an acceptable custody agreement. Your San Diego divorce attorney has the experience and expertise to help negotiate a custody agreement that provides the best solution to this complex situation. To schedule a confidential initial consultation, call our office at 858-312-8500 or contact us online.