Changes in a child’s life can be very traumatic for everyone involved. We focus on securing a positive outcome in your child’s best interest, and on protecting your parental rights.
If the parties cannot agree on custody of their child, the courts decide custody based on the best interests of the child. California law generally requires frequent and continuing contact with both parents, unless other factors exist such as a Domestic Violence Restraining Order or other safety or health issues.
Custody has two parts, legal custody and physical custody. Depending upon the situation, they both may be shared, or the court may decide that one party has primary legal and/or physical custody. Legal custody refers to who has the say in major decisions affecting the child, and includes school and education decisions, health care decisions, and welfare decisions. Physical custody refers to who the child lives with, the time a child spends with each parent, and the rules for the time a child spends with each party.
Visitation refers to the time a child spends with one party when the other party has primary physical custody of the child, and includes guidelines and rules for visits with the child (that may, or may not, include overnight visits.)
What is a Parenting Plan?
A parenting plan is a written agreement made between a child’s parents and is also referred to as a custody and visitation agreement. It addresses how the parties will raise the child despite the parties being separated and living in separate households. An effective parenting plan will also consider future needs of the child and addresses many issues, including how the child will be cared for during school, outside of school, school choice, and a division of holidays, special days, and vacations. It may also address specific detail unique to each party’s lifestyle, culture, religion, and travel concerns.
Can a Custody Order or Visitation Order Be Changed or Modified?
A change, or modification, of a custody order must be made through the court. A change in circumstances is required, such as one party is regularly spending an amount of time with the child that is different from what is stated in the custody and visitation order, one parent is relocating, or the child has different needs now and the current order does not adequately address these new needs. If you think that a change in custody is needed, or the other party has notified you that they want to change custody, we can help you make sure your rights, and the rights of your child, are protected.
Will a Domestic Violence Restraining Order (DVRO) affect custody and support?
It definitely can do that! Evidence of domestic abuse or violence, or a Domestic Violence Restraining Order can impact the court’s decisions on child custody, and child support. The courts take domestic abuse and violence situations very seriously. If you have a DVRO against you, the court can even deny you custody of your child. This can also change the amount of child support required. This is a very stressful situation for all involved. We can make sure that your right to see your child is protected.
Can One Parent Deny The Other Parent Visitation?
If a party denies the other party visitation, and a court order is in place, then they have violated a court order. If no court order is in place, you can contact us about protecting your child, and your rights, thought a court order.
If you are denied visitation, the ultimate goal is to get the other party to follow the visitation order and reestablish visitation as quickly as possible. We can help you with enforcement of your visitation order, so that you can see your child again.
If you are denying the other party visitation, and a court order is in place, then you are violating a court order. If you have good reason to believe the other party should no longer have visitation, you should contact us right away about modifying the current order and protecting your child.
I am a grandparent –do I have visitation rights?
If a grandparent is being denied visitation, and wants visitation rights, they must petition the court for visitation. The grandparent must prove to the court that visitation is in the best interests of the child. The court considers many factors, including the time which has elapsed since the child last had contact with the grandparent(s). If you want to establish visitation rights with your grandchild, contact us about safeguarding your visitation rights.
When the court is makes decisions regarding children, they consider numerous factors to determine the best interest of the child. For help reaching your desired outcome, you need an experienced legal advocate who works for you by your side.
California law states that both parents have a general obligation to support their minor child, whether the child is natural or adopted, whether or not the parents were ever married. A party can request child support from the other parent in several ways, including through divorce, legal separation, paternity, or domestic violence actions. While several factors can change the amount of support, setting child support starts with a guideline formula based the income (or earning capacity) of each party and the amount of time each party spends with the child. The court weighs many factors, including the best interest of the child, each party’s ability to support the child, each party’s financial status, each party’s physical and mental health, each party’s ability to obtain and keep employment, and any special education needs of the child.
Can Child Support Orders be Changed (Modified)?
Many orders are modifiable under the right circumstances. We can help you with a modification or with challenging a proposed modification. Child support orders can be modified when there is a change in custody or visitation, or another significant change in circumstances. In addition to a change in custody or visitation, child support order can be adjusted due to an increase or decrease in income, a loss of a job/unemployment, a new job with a different pay level or structure, or retirement. Child support orders cannot be modified retroactively so as soon as a change in circumstances for either party occurs, you should immediately find out how it affects you and child support.
What can I do when the other parent stops paying child support?
If a parent falls behind or stops paying child support payments, you do have options for enforcing your support order. You can collect on arrears owed and you can ensure that future payments are made in a timely manner – you might even have the option of receiving payments directly from the other party’s employer. You will need to work through the courts, and options include income withholding, wage garnishment, interception of tax refunds, liens or attachments to property. Additionally, punitive actions can include driver’s license suspension, passport denial, and possible jail time.
Can I get a decrease in the amount of child support I pay?
If you have a substantial change in your financial circumstances, such as a severe illness, job loss, retirement, or a new job with less pay, you may be able to modify your court order for child support. The court will consider your reason for modification and whether it justifies a change in child support.
So long as you have a court order to pay support, you should continue paying. If you stop paying, you still owe the money you did not pay, and this type of debt accrues interest at the whopping rate of 10%. If you have lost your income, you will need to file a request in court to modify that order. Not only that, since the court can only modify support commencing the date that you file your request (and not when you lost work), you should not delay and should file this request as soon as you lose your job.
We can help you with your modification petition and present a convincing case to the court for modification of child support.
Can I get an increase in child support that I receive?
You may be able to get an increase in child support payments by requesting the court modify your order. The court requires a significant change in circumstances such as the other party has an increase in income, a new job, or you lost your job or additional income. Modifying child support is done through the court, so as soon as the change in circumstances happens, you should contact us about requesting an increase in your support order.
If I am not the child’s father, do I pay child support?
Even if you are not the child’s biological father, California courts may still find you to be the father of a child, and responsible for paying child support. In California courts, biology is less crucial than the relationship that the child has with the adults involved.
If you have been served with papers saying that you are a child’s father and you do not believe this to be the case, DO NOT IGNORE THIS. Failure to respond can result in a Default Judgment of parentage, which can also result in your being obligated to support this child for the next 18 years.
These are serious issues, with long-term consequences for everyone involved. You will only have a limited amount of time to contest any such cases, so do not delay! Contact us to review your situation and find out about protecting your rights.