Child custody is often disputes in divorce cases in California. It is common for each parent to believe that the children would be better off with them. Parents have the ability to work out an agreement related to child custody without having to have the judge make important decisions regarding child custody. However, if parents cannot reach an agreement, they may have to litigate the matter.
California law recognizes a written parenting plan in which the parents determine how to divide time between parents. This written custody agreement outlines which parent will have physical custody. This may be joint custody in which both parents have a significant amount of time with each parent. Alternatively, it may provide for primary custody for one parent and visitation for the other parent. The plan should include an agreement regarding a regular school week, summer time, birthdays and holidays. This parenting plan may list the parents’ schedules and identify each parent’s responsibility toward raising the child. The parenting plan should also lay out how decisions regarding the children will be made.
Parents can present a written agreement to the judge during their divorce. Their lawyers may help negotiate the terms of this agreement, or they may be able to work together on devising this agreement.
California courts strongly encourage mediation. This is a process in which a third-party mediator helps the parties work together toward an amicable resolution of their dispute. In mediation, the parties work together with a third-party neutral mediator who uses conflict resolution skills to get the parties to work collaboratively. The mediator may point out the disadvantages of litigation, such as the expense and adversarial nature of it. The mediator may meet with both parents in the same room, or he or she may shuttle back and forth between the parties and exchange information, depending on his or her own style and the dynamics between the parties.
In mediation, the parties may be able to craft a customized parenting plan that is in the best interests of the child. Parenting agreements that are well thought out between the parties often provide for more time with each parent. Additionally, mediation can be an effective way to resolve problems and make the process more amicable for the benefit of the children moving forward.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
Alternative dispute resolution is an informal negotiation that may be able to resolve a custody dispute. This type of process may be recommended if both parents are willing to collaborate to resolve their custody dispute. They are usually represented by independent legal counsel during these proceedings.
Collaborative Family Law
California also recognizes collaborative family law which is focused on helping the parties work together and avoid litigation. This special type of law involves lawyers who work together for the goal of reaching a resolution together. Lawyers and the parties meet together to resolve their divorce issues, including child custody. The parties may include others in the proceedings, such as child psychologists or accountants. If the parents are unable to reach a resolution and proceed to litigation, the lawyers must recuse themselves and the parents must hire new lawyers.
If the parents are unable to reach their own agreement, they may have to litigate their case. This process is often long and involves complying with specific court procedures. The parties may engage in the discovery process in which they request certain information from the other party or ask the other party questions. They may have to provide documentation to each other that is relevant to the case, such as school records, financial records, medical records and other documents. There is a court hearing in which the parents testify about who should have custody of the children and why. They may call additional witnesses, such as friends, family members, school personnel or others who are familiar with the circumstances. The judge makes a determination about child custody based on what is in the best interest of the children.
Contact an Experienced Child Custody Lawyer in California
If you are involved in a child custody dispute and would like assistance, it is important to contact an experienced family law lawyer. He or she can explain the process of divorce in California and the options that may be available to you. He or she can also describe whether mediation, alternative dispute resolution, collaborative law or litigation may be the best option for you, given your individual circumstances. He or she can help draft a parenting plan or represent your position in court if necessary.