When spouses make the painful decision that it is time to divorce, they will have to confront the myriad of problems and issues that are likely to arise. There are many financial, logistical, and day-to-day practical considerations to weigh. And when children are involved, many would argue that child custody issues are the most important priority to settle as early in the proceedings as possible. Because divorce and custody matters have the potential to insight fluctuating emotions on behalf of the parties, and because family law matters can get complicated fairly easily, spouses are encouraged to contact an experienced San Diego family law attorney to guide you through a process that is often very stressful for the parties.
In California, it is the responsibility of the divorcing parties to petition the local court for a child custody order. Failure to consult with an attorney and secure an order can result in many unanticipated and adverse consequences. A recent Los Angeles Times article depicts one of the problems associated with failing to secure a custody order. On February 28, it was reported that seven children were missing from their Northern California home. The children had been living there with their mother and stepfather. The adults left the children in the care of the oldest of the bunch, a 12 year-old, while they went grocery shopping.
When the couple returned home from the store, the children (and their clothes) were gone. The children’s ages ranged from twelve to five-years-old. Among the authorities searching for the family of children was an FBI Task Force. Several days later, the children were found unharmed, in good spirits, and in Sacramento with their biological father. According to reports, the father was estranged from the family for the previous three years. A Reuters’s article reported that he was divorced from the children’s mother, but there was no court-ordered custody arrangement in place. Because of this lack of child custody order, the authorities permitted the children to stay with their father while they determined whether any crimes took place.
Among other things, the police are investigating whether the father should be charged with child abduction or concealment. Further, they are looking into whether the mother and stepfather have committed acts of child endangerment or neglect by leaving them alone without adult supervision.
According to a California Courts’ website, either parent can have custody of the children, or the two may share custody. While the judge has the authority to make the final decision about custody and visitation, he or she will typically approve an arrangement that the parents agree on. This arrangement is called a parenting plan. Where parents are unable to agree on the plan, the judge will render a decision at a court hearing. Under court procedure in California, judges typically do not hand down a decision about custody and visitation until after the parents have met with a Family Court mediator.
The parents in this case failed to initiate a child custody petition in California. There was no order on record of whom the children were supposed to be living with: their mom or dad. Because of this, the authorities had no idea whether the children were abducted from their home, or just out with their father. In consideration of their children’s best interests, divorcing parents should make it a priority to settle any child custody disputes as early as possible, with the help of an experienced family law attorney.
If you are a parent with questions about child custody and visitation matters, you are encouraged to contact Doppelt & Forney. Mr. Doppelt is an experienced family law attorney representing parents for more than 20 years in Southern California. Doppelt & Forney serves clients in Linda Vista, Encinitas, Scripps Ranch, San Diego, and throughout Southern California. For a free consultation with a dedicated and experienced family lawyer, contact Doppelt & Forney through the law firm’s website or give us a call toll-free at (800) ROY IS IT (769-4748).
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