The custody and visitation schedule of minor children is often the most hotly contested issue in a divorce. The public policy of the State of California is to enable each parent frequent and continuing contact with both parents absent extraordinary circumstances. Often courts do not just consider time share when making custody and visitation determinations. Rather, the courts are interested in how much involvement and what role each parent plays in a child’s life.
When court intervention is necessary, the court will often look to the stability factor in a child’s life when making initial custody and visitation determinations. Pre-judgment, custody and timeshare are set depending upon the best interests of the children to assuring each child’s health, safety and welfare. Each party’s respective time with the children will be limited to the timeshare allotted by way of stipulation or Court order unless the parties are able to be flexible and cooperative with their respective parenting schedules.
Parties will want to determine at the onset what type of custody each parent will have. Courts will be concerned with the manner the parents communicate with one another while a child is a minor and to ascertain if effective co-parenting is possible. The court also perceives when one parent deprives the other parent of access time to their children, or when one parent appears to alienate a child from the affection and love of the other parent. In the absence of serious malfeasance, the Courts often favor a form of joint legal and physical custody of the children.
As children grow, their needs change, making custody litigation an ever evolving arena. Often parents are willing to agree in advance via their court stipulations and orders to mediate disputes as situations arise in a child’s life. It frequently includes not only the basic time schedule, but also a holiday and vacation plan. These types of stipulations must incorporate a great amount consideration to the future while making certain that the client will be involved in the major decision making of a child’s life.
Since children are often young at the time of the divorce, the issues of custody and visitation may continue to be before the court long after the final Judgment of divorce is pronounced. For this reason, cases involving minor children are rarely “over” until the minor child has reached the age of majority and all support obligations have been satisfied. For such important issues, well qualified legal representation is essential.
T. Elizabeth Fields, Esq., is a Certified Family Law Specialist and the founder and Principal Attorney of the Law Offices of T. Elizabeth Fields in Beverly Hills. Kathyrne L. Clark is an associate attorney with the firm.