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Los Gatos family law attorney for child custody

When a couple makes the difficult decision to pursue a divorce, it is fair to say that they are likely entering a challenging time in their lives. A divorce represents a new chapter for both parties, but it can also come with some significant conflicts. A couple will be forced to resolve various issues as they go about the process of dissolving their marriage. These issues can range from the allocation of marital assets to the separation of bank accounts. One of the most consistently contentious aspects of many divorces is child custody. For divorcing parents, it is important to understand the steps you can take to ensure you will remain a significant presence in your child’s life. 

Child Custody in California 

Here in the state of California, when a child custody case cannot be resolved through mediation, a judge ultimately will decide where the child will primarily reside. The judge will do this by evaluating what is in the best interests of the child. They will consider a variety of criteria, including which parent will provide a safer environment for the child and whether the child would benefit from consistently being around one or both parents. It should be noted that the judge will not consider the gender of each parent when evaluating a case and making their decision. 

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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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