Six Reasons Why We Are the Best Child Custody Attorneys in Sacramento.
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Child Custody Attorney in Sacramento California
Easily one of the most emotional and conflict-ridden areas of divorce is the matter of Child Custody. Child Custody disputes can be complicated and lengthy. This is understandable since this is the time when parents must decide the course of their child’s future. We know that as a parent, you do not take this matter lightly, and we will be here to clear up the legal jargon and simplify the process so you can focus on what you do best – caring for your child. We hope to answer some of your questions and explain the basics of child custody in California below, but please do not take this as legal advice. Your individual situation could call for different steps of action. That is why we provide entirely free legal consultations, so you can speak one-on-one with our child custody attorneys about your case.
Types of Child Custody in California
In Sacramento, California, child custody is divided into two subsets – legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody refers to the decision-making capability of the custodial parent(s). This means that they can choose their son or daughter’s
- Place and type of education
- Religious teachings
- Physical, emotional, and mental care plan
- Extracurricular activities
- Travel abilities
Of course, this isn’t a complete list. The gist of legal custody is that it gives the parent(s) the right to make decisions about their child’s upbringing. Physical custody, as the name suggests, is where the child will physically reside. This not only refers to where they will sleep and spend the majority of their time, but also the address of their permanent residence that they will put on legal documents.
Joint, Shared, and Sole Custody in Sacramento, California
Both types of custody can be either joint, shared, or sole. Joint custody means that both parents share equal rights over the child. Sole means that only one parent (called the custodial parent) has full rights over the child. Shared can be used synonymously with joint, but it can refer to an unequal joint custody arrangement when one parent has more rights than the other.
Joint legal custody grants both parents equal legal decision-making abilities. Most often, the city of Sacramento will grant both parents legal custody unless one parent is deemed unfit.
Joint physical custody means that the child will spend equal amounts of time with both their parents.
Sole legal custody grants only one custodial parent the legal right to make decisions for their child. Sole physical custody means that the child will permanently reside with only one parent. Sacramento courts often grant one parent sole physical custody while giving the other extensive visitation rights. However, this all depends on what is best for the child.
Child Custody Through Mediation – Writing a Parenting Plan Together
Not all child custody disputes end up in court and are litigated by a judge. Rather, you and your spouse can go through a process of mediation to discuss your child’s well-being and make decisions together.
Steps of Child Custody Mediation – 1) Finding a Child Custody Mediator in Sacramento
Typically, talking to your spouse about child custody arrangements allows you both to make better decisions for your child. By recruiting a child custody attorney to oversee your mediation, you can ensure that every base is thoroughly covered and that all discussions remain respectful and on-topic. The steps of mediating your child custody still take much time and effort, and consulting with our Sacramento child custody attorneys who know the city- specific laws and steps will ensure that everything goes smoothly.
Is Child Custody Mediation Mandatory in Sacramento, California?
In child custody cases in Sacramento, the parents must attempt Sacramento child custody mediation before presenting their case to the judge. Mediation is mandatory in most counties in California, including Sacramento, because it has been shown to be best for the child. It allows parents to focus on their child’s future and well-being by putting aside their differences and working together to give their son or daughter his or her best chance in life. One of our Sacramento child custody mediators will walk you through every step of the process.
Do I Need to Hire a Child Custody Mediator or Will the Courts Provide a Mediator?
While there are free child custody mediation services within Sacramento County, you do have the option of hiring your own mediator for child custody. Often, free mediators are working dozens of cases at once and will not pour the time and energy into your case that a personal child custody mediation attorney would. Thus, you will be paying for quality. However,
if you do decide to use the court-provided mediator, you can always recruit a personal child custody attorney for additional support and legal advice.
Hiring a Mediation Attorney and a Child Custody Attorney
Whether you are hiring a mediator or using a free service for your mediation, you can always hire a child custody attorney who will work as your personal representative and legal consult. This can often improve your confidence going into mediations since your attorney will prepare your arguments with you, review all pertinent information and laws before you go in, and debrief you after every session.
However, know that while we would love to help you with every aspect of divorce, we cannot act as both your shared child custody mediator and your personal child custody attorney, as that is a conflict of interest. As a mediator, we must remain unbiased, which means a child custody attorney from our Sacramento firm would not be able to specifically represent you as well. If you’re not sure which route to choose, please call us for a free consultation on the matter, so we can listen to your case and help you decide on your best option.
Can My Attorney Come to Mediation Sessions with Me in Sacramento?
This usually depends on the judge and the mediator. Some will allow you to bring your own personal attorney, others will not. However, even if your lawyer cannot attend mediation sessions with you, you can always consult with them before and after the sessions.
Steps of Child Custody Mediation in Sacramento – 2) Drafting a Child Custody Plan for Parents
Writing the Parenting Plan in Sacramento – Child Custody Agreements in California
Once you have chosen a mediator, you can begin the actual process of negotiating your child custody arrangements with your spouse. This is the lengthiest process since you must cover every topic related to legal and physical custody of your child. This means your preferences regarding education, healthcare, religion, residency, punishment, socialization, activities, etc. The more detail included in your parenting plan, the less room for controversy and arguments in the future. As your child custody mediator or your personal child custody attorney, we will always work towards a solution that would best benefit your child. We will also make sure that your rights as a parent are protected and upheld.
Signing a Parenting Plan in Sacramento Never sign a child custody agreement without thoroughly reviewing
arrangements you make could have unforeseen repercussions in the future. Thus, allow an experienced child custody lawyer to review the document and let you know exactly what each decision will mean for you and your child’s future. Then, once you sign off on the parenting plan, you will present it to the judge, who will make the child custody agreement official.
Contesting Child Custody in Sacramento, California
If mediation does not work for either parent, they must go through contested child custody in California, where the judge will make decisions regarding child custody arrangements and write up a parenting plan. The parents must present their arguments as to why their child custody preference is more beneficial to the child, thus it is essential to recruit a powerful and experienced child custody attorney to help you through your contested child custody court hearing.
Child Custody Court Cases in Sacramento, California
Before you go through child custody hearings, you must open a case within Sacramento courts. This is easy if you are already going through a divorce, since the case is already open, and you can move on to the next step in the child custody litigation process. However, if you are not going through a divorce, you must open up a new case, either one specifically for child custody and support or one for parentage or a restraining order or something similar.
Asking for Child Custody in Sacramento – Child Custody Forms in California
Either during the divorce process or after you have opened another case in court, you can now request child custody from the judge in Sacramento. The first step is to submit the proper forms for child custody. These differ depending on the case you have open in Sacramento family courts, so call us for help on deciphering which forms you must use. Once the child custody forms are submitted, you must go before the judge. For divorce, this means that you must make your case for child custody and convince the judge that you are a fit parent and you deserve the rights you are asking for. Your Sacramento child custody attorney will help you craft persuasive contentions and argue for you fiercely before the judge. If you are not married, you will have to submit a petition for child custody and/or support, which we discuss in more detail further down in the article.
Child Custody Factors in California – How Will the Judge Decide on Child Custody in Sacramento?
Custody Factor #1 – “Child’s Best Interest”
This is the first and foremost factor in all child custody cases – what is in the child’s best interest. Simply put, the “child’s best interest” means the situation that will best benefit the child physically, emotionally, and mentally. Most often, the judge will strive for an arrangement in which both parents are equally involved in raising their child. If, for any reason, you feel that your spouse should not be granted certain rights, you must argue that in court. If your spouse comes against you and says that you do not deserve child custody, you must also argue for yourself in court. This means that you must prove to the judge that your preference for child custody is what is best for your child. As your child custody attorney, we will always remind the judge of what is best for the child and fight for your rights and preferences.
Custody Factor #2 – The Status Quo of Child Custody
Another factor that the judge will use to make his child custody decisions is the current living situation of the child. Typically, this is for parents who are not married or those who lived separately before officially filing for divorce. The “status quo” means the unofficial child custody arrangements that are already in existence. Thus, if the child has only resided with one parent for a long period of time while visiting the other, the judge will need to be persuaded as to why the current situation should change. This can be difficult if you are requesting child custody, but the child has historically lived with their father or mother and you have had infrequent visits with your son or daughter. Thus, you must hire an attorney who is extremely persuasive and able to show the judge why the current custody situations are not good for the child and why they would best benefit from you attaining custody.
Custody Factor #3 – Fit and Unfit Parents (What is an Unfit Parent?)
An unfit mother or father means a parent who cannot adequately provide for their child or even goes so far as to harm their child. The factors or criteria of an unfit parent can include but are not limited to:
- Criminal history of violence or addiction
- Abuse, neglect, or domestic violence
- Parent’s knowledge about their child’s specific needs
- Their ability to meet the child’s needs, financially, physically, and emotionally
- The parent’s reputation and the judge’s impression of him or her
- Parent’s contact with the child, past and present
If you believe that the child’s other parent should not have physical or legal custody
over their child for the above-stated reasons or for any other factors, let us know. We can help form a persuasive case to protect you and your child.
If you believe that you may be unjustly declared as an unfit parent due to past circumstances, call us. If it is in your child’s best interest, we can help you persuade the judge to allow you to be a part of your child’s life.
Custody Factor #4 – Child’s Preference for Custody
In California, children age 14 or older can declare their preference for child custody arrangements, which the judge will take into consideration. Sometimes, the judge will even consider the preference of a child younger than fourteen, but only if he or she feels that the child is mature enough to know their needs. The judge can also go against a child’s preference for custody if they feel it is in the child’s best interest.
Is California a “Mother” or a “Father” State?
No. California being a “mother’s” state by law is a myth. The judge can never show preference to a mother or a father based on child custody. Unfortunately, however, biases are common in courts, so if you feel you are being treated unfairly based on your gender, call us immediately. We will help protect your rights.
Will They Separate Siblings During Child Custody Arrangements?
It is very rare for a judge to make child custody decisions that separate siblings. After all, it is usually in the best interest of brothers and sisters to be together, and the judge will act on that principle.
Domestic Violence and Child Custody in Sacramento
All too commonly, victims of domestic abuse or neglect must go through child custody disputes in Sacramento courts. If you are in this situation yourself, call us immediately. We can help you file a restraining order against your spouse, if necessary, while taking legal action to protect yourself and your child. Once you are safe, we can begin the process of officially arranging child custody and requesting child support from your spouse, if you feel that is necessary. Know that we will always respect you and your confidentiality and that we will assign you our most compassionate and understanding lawyers to help you through this trying time and ensure that you and your child are adequately cared for.
Child Custody for Unmarried Parents in Sacramento
If you and your partner are not married, child custody can become more complicated. This is because unmarried parents do not have the same legal rights in Sacramento as married parents. However, we will help you show the judge that you simply wish to love and care for your child as any parent would, and that you need the legal protection in order to do so.
Petitioning for Child Custody in Sacramento – Child Custody Forms for California
Before you even request child custody from the courts, you must prove parentage. This involves paperwork and official declarations and possible DNA testing. After parentage is proven, unmarried parents must submit a petition for child custody to Sacramento courts in to officially request child custody and/or support. The way in which you write the petition is extremely important, since this will be your first impression to the judge and could greatly influence his or her decisions. Thus, always have your child custody attorney review the paperwork before you submit it to make sure that your wording gives off the right impression.