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Los Gatos, CA parenting plan attorneyDivorce has a major impact not only on the separating spouses, but also on their children. Because children do not necessarily have a say in their parents’ decision to divorce, it can be hard for them to understand how the divorce will affect them and what their lives and relationships with both parents will look like throughout the divorce process and after it is finalized. Divorcing parents need to work together to establish a clear parenting plan that reduces uncertainty for their children and makes sure that their needs are met.

Important Considerations for Child Custody and Visitation

There is a tendency for some to think of child custody as a question of “who gets the kids,” but this is an oversimplification that does not fully account for the children’s best interests or the fact that in most divorces, both parents continue to share responsibility for their children’s well-being. When you and your spouse are negotiating your parenting plan, you should consider a number of factors, including:

  • Your children’s education and extracurricular activities. You and your spouse will need to determine which of you will contribute to the choice of your children’s schools and their involvement in extracurricular activities. You should also account for where the schools and activities are located and when they take place to decide which of you may be responsible for transporting your children on a regular basis.

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Los Gatos divorce and child custody lawyerMany divorced couples want to co-parent their children in a joint physical custody arrangement but struggle with the amount of coordination it requires. 50/50 parenting time schedules can be hard on the children, too, as they have to move between their parents’ houses regularly. To address this, some parents have opted for a “nesting” arrangement, wherein the children stay in a single home and the parents rotate in and out.

The Pros and Cons of Nesting in California 

Some of the benefits of a nesting arrangement include:

  • Children have the stability of one place to eat, sleep, and play. This can be most beneficial during the early stages of a divorce.
  • Parents save back-and-forth trips for needed items. When a child frequently changes houses, it is too easy to forget or run out of something they need.
  • Only one set of childcare paraphernalia is needed, and it gets to stay in one place. This is especially beneficial during a child’s infant and toddler years. Maintaining two sets of everything--cribs, high chairs, special toys and blankets, special food and bottles, etc.--is costly. 
  • When parents live far apart, it can be easier for the parents to travel to the nesting house than to shift the children back and forth, especially when one parent has the flexibility to work remotely. When the children stay in the nest, parents avoid having to drive or fly the children back and forth or having the children travel unaccompanied.

Nesting can also be problematic in several ways:

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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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Los Gatos child custody attorneyIn a divorce involving children, one of the most important decisions you will make is, “Who has legal custody of the children?”

The Difference Between Legal Custody and Physical Custody 

Legal custody and physical custody are two separate issues. Physical custody refers to where the children will live. Legal custody describes who has the right to make major decisions about the lifestyle and care of minor children. This article will focus strictly on the definition of legal custody. 

Legal Custody in California

Under California law, the person(s) with legal custody has the right and responsibility to make critical decisions for the minor children, including: 

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CA family lawyerWhen parents decide to end their marriage and get divorced, their divorce decree will include the decisions made about child custody and visitation, including the rights both parents have in making decisions regarding how their children will be raised and schedules for the time that children will spend with each parent. The decree serves as a court order, and parents are required by law to follow its terms. Unfortunately, situations often occur in which one parent interferes with the other parent’s custodial rights or parenting time. In these cases, it is important for parents to understand their options for enforcing their custody order.

Enforcement of Court Orders

Interference with custody or visitation can occur in a variety of ways. One parent may not inform the other about children’s medical treatments or educational needs, or they may fail to consult with the other parent when making important decisions. A parent may refuse to allow the other parent to spend visitation time with their children, possibly because there is a dispute about the payment of child support. In the worst cases, a parent may abduct their child, taking them away from the other parent and cutting off communication.

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