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Los Gatos divorce child relocation attorneyMaking sure a child maintains a good relationship with both parents after a divorce is a worthy goal. It can also be difficult to achieve. It is not uncommon for one parent to need to move to a new home and community for work or family reasons. When this happens, it can upend the child custody and visitation agreement that was originally worked out.

Overview of California Law on Child Custody

California law encourages parents to work out their own agreement with regard to child custody and visitation. Once that agreement has been approved by a judge, it has the force of a court order. Violation of that order can result in a criminal contempt proceeding. Specifically, if one parent violates that order, such as by moving to a location that would make it impossible to follow the agreed parenting time schedule, the other parent can file an Order to Show Cause and Affidavit for Contempt with the court. The parent in violation can be subject to criminal penalties such as community service, jail time, and/or fines. 

How Child Custody Law Applies to One Parent Moving Away

California law does not specifically require that divorced parents remain within a certain distance of one another to facilitate visitation. Parents are free, however, to include a requirement in their parenting plan that both parents remain within a certain geographic area. Then, if one parent tries to violate that agreement by moving far away, the other parent has legal recourse. If such a clause was not included in the court-approved parenting plan, then the issue becomes less clear. 

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Los Gatos child custody lawyer same sex parents surrogate motherAs family structures have become more diverse in recent decades, child custody issues have become more complicated. Traditionally, the world has followed the “rule of two” and allowed a child to have just two legal parents at birth: the woman who gave birth to the child and her husband (or, if the woman was unmarried at the time of the birth, the child’s biological father could claim paternity). One parent would have to die or legally terminate their parental rights in order for an adoptive parent to take their place.

However, divorce, same-sex marriage, informal parentage, adoption, surrogate pregnancies, and assisted reproduction have all contributed to an increase in family structures involving more than two parents, and American courts are starting to adapt to the idea of tri-parenting.

In 2013, California became the first state to pass a law allowing for a child to have more than two legal, living parents, and a similar law was recently passed in Maine. Courts in at least 10 other states have approved specific cases of third-parent adoptions, dual paternity, “psychological” (non-biological) parents, or “tri-custody.”

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CA family lawyerWhen parents decide to get divorced, or when they are unmarried, determining who will have responsibility for their children can often be a contentious matter to resolve. Disputes over child custody can be highly emotional, and the decisions made in these cases will affect parents’ and children’s lives and relationships for years to come. When working to resolve these issues, it is important to understand how California law affects the decisions made.

California Child Custody Laws

California law recognizes two types of child custody: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody involves decision-making authority for children, including medical, dental, or mental health treatments; educational choices, such as where they will go to school; extracurricular activities they will participate in; whether they will attend church or be involved in religious activities; and other decisions related to their general welfare. Physical custody involves where children will live and spend their time.

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California divorce attorneyChild custody is often an issue of paramount importance in Bay Area divorce proceedings. While each parent may already have secured stability in terms of career, health, and future plans, a child, especially if young, is still developing intellectually, physically, and emotionally. When parents divorce, the impact on these areas of a child’s development can have both short-term and long-term effects. For this, courts in California do not rely on a default framework with regard to child custody.

In other words, rather than automatically awarding custody of a child to the mother or father based on a single reason, the court considers what is in the best interests of the child. In this consideration, courts evaluate several primary factors related to the child’s wellbeing and environment. A skilled Los Gatos child custody attorney is well acquainted with these factors and how California courts weigh them.

Age, Health, Emotional Ties, and Parental Ability Are Among the Relevant Child Custody Factors in California

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California custody lawyerIf you and your ex cannot agree on a child custody schedule, a court will get involved to make one. When making this determination, California law instructs that courts must consider the best interest of the child.

This means that the desires of the parents are not given much weight, except as to how they relate to the child’s best interest. Also, it should be noted that this calculus is related only to physical custody not legal custody. Legal custody refers to the rights of the parents to make all critical decisions that affect the child's life.

The law further outlines what factors should be weighed in deciding what custody arrangement is in the best interest of the child. Your Campbell family law attorney can discuss the specific circumstances in your case, but generally, these factors include:

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