At Gower Law & Mediation, we strive to ensure that our clients obtain a child custody and visitation order that meets their goals and expectations. We represent mothers, fathers and grandparents in child custody and visitation cases throughout San Diego and Orange County. Our attorneys recognize that child custody is often the most difficult and personal part of any divorce case, and we endeavor to bring patience and understanding to every case. We work hard to focus on what is the best interest of our client and the child. When needed or called upon, our attorneys will aggressively pursue a favorable child custody order to protect our clients and their children.
Physical vs. Legal Child Custody
Child custody is made up of two components: legal and physical custody. Legal custody encompasses decision making power regarding health, safety, education and general welfare. Generally, most parents have joint legal custody, meaning that both parents have equal input regarding a child’s medical treatment or schooling. However, legal custody can be taken away from a parent who exhibits irrational decision making or has a history of abuse.
Physical custody involves the actual daily parenting of a child. Physical custody is generally broken down as a percentage of custodial time for each parent. For instance, if physical custody is equal, both parents will have 50% physical custody. However, if one parent only has weekend visitation, that parent will have 10-30% physical custody and the other parent will have 70-90% physical custody, depending on the actual timeshare arrangement. The party with over 50% of physical custody has primary physical custody. These percentages are relevant to child support calculations, and our attorneys can advise you on how different custodial arrangement can impact child support orders.
How to Obtain a Child Custody Order
A court ordered child custody schedule can be obtained by either a joint agreement submitted to the court, or through a court motion and hearing. We work with you to determine the best process to obtain your desired result. Often, a joint agreement cannot be reached and a motion must be filed in the family court. Our attorneys carefully draft the motion and accompanying declaration in order to fully inform the court regarding what the custody schedule should ultimately be. We also meet with our clients to thoroughly prepare them for what they should or should not say in any custody mediation or hearing.
Modifying a Child Custody Order
In general, a child custody order can be modified if there has been a “change in circumstances.” Although there is no full list of what constitutes a “change in circumstances,” a court may consider everything from changes in a child’s or parent’s schedule, substance abuse issues, relocation of a parent, and issues relating generally to a child’s changing needs as he or she grows and matures. Our attorneys are experienced in both obtaining modifications for our clients, as well as preventing custody modifications.