Custody & Visitation
Gone are the days when physical custody was simply awarded to the children's mother under the belief that a mother had the best child-rearing skills. Today, the law does not favor one parent over the other.
Deciding the custodial arrangements for children is not an issue that is resolved quickly. A court typically begins its assessment with an examination of the status quo. It looks at the way the parties have been operating on their own. If both parents have been equally involved in the raising of the children, playing an active role in their lives, then there is probably a good chance that the situation is an appropriate one for joint physical custody.
When considering the options that are presented, a court considers several factors including
- Arrangements within the family in the past
- The positive effects and drawbacks of each proposed custody arrangement
- If the child is old enough, the wishes of the child
- Any history of domestic violence or drug abuse
When custody is unresolved between the parties, the courts require the spouses to meet with a Family Court Services Mediator. The Mediator is charged with examining the situation and learning more about the relationships and synergy of the family. The Mediator will then make recommendations for custody and see whether the parents will agree to abide by these recommendations.
Note: When both parents share custody, the amount of support provided to the spouse with the lower earnings generally reflects the decrease in time spent with the children. While this should not be a motivating factor for requesting custody of minor children, this decrease in payments must be accounted for as part of the negotiation process.
If parents cannot resolve the issues of custody by themselves or through some phase of the mediation process, the parties always have the right to have a hearing of the issues before the court; however, this process is not inexpensive and can serve to increase the acrimony between the parties. If one parent is still unhappy with the result, she/he can request that the court order the parties to undergo an evaluation. Evaluations generally cost $5,000 or more and are usually conducted by a psychologist, psychiatrist, or some other family trained specialist in private practice who focuses on custody evaluations.
Where the parties cannot agree to an arrangement for their children, custody can be a long and complicated process. When the future of your children is at stake, you need to have an attorney with the experience to navigate the process and bring the important considerations to light.
If you have any questions, or if you would like to speak with an experienced attorney to advise you with your concerns about child custody, please do not hesitate to call us at (510) 537-7200 or contact us online. We look forward to hearing from you!