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Child Custody

Understanding Child Custody

Parents involved in a dispute over child custody typically find themselves in one of two situations: 

  1. They are seeking an award of custody and parenting time in connection with a divorce, or
  2. They are an unmarried couple that is seeking an award of custody and parenting time in connection with a separation or a breakdown in their co-parenting relationship.  

At Vista Family Law, we help parents in both situations, and we know that each parent and child have their own unique circumstances. We promise you that we will work closely with you to understand your wants and needs and those of your child so that we can find the best solution for all of you.

Navigating Child Custody

 Resolving a child custody dispute requires the court to address two different legal issues – 

  1. How to award custody?
  2. Which parenting plan to use? 

The court’s answers to these questions will address everything from the parenting schedule, the amount of child support that will be awarded, and the decision-making authority of each parent.

In answering these questions, the court will make its decision based upon the “best interests of the child” standard. There are many factors that the court will consider when determining which course of action is in the best interests of the child, but in general the following four factors are especially important. 

  1. Each parent’s role in caring for the child and bonding with the child until now, 
  2. Each parent’s social and economic stability going forward,
  3. Each parent’s health and moral fitness, and
  4. The preference of the child.

Now, lets examine each of the dual issues of custody and parenting time in more detail.

Allocating Custody

 Custody refers to the right to make major decisions regarding your child such as where they will go to school, what type of activities they may participate in, and where they will receive medical care.  

There are two different types of custody – Physical Custody and Legal Custody.  

Physical custody refers to the amount of time each parent is permitted to spend physically with a child. This type of custody may be awarded to a single parent or shared between both parents.

Legal custody refers to a parent’s decision-making rights regarding a child’s health, education, and welfare. It, too, may be awarded to a single parent or shared between both parents.

Note that the court cannot force parents into a joint custody arrangement – the parents have to agree to it voluntarily. If the parents cannot agree, then the court must award Legal & Physical Custody on a sole or primary basis to one of the parents.

Allocating Parenting Time

How much time will your child spend with each parent? Where will your child sleep? Which holidays will your child spend with you? These are the questions that must be answered for two parents to agree on a parenting plan. If the parents cannot agree on their answers to these questions, then the court must decide. 

It is essential that you craft a parenting plan in order to protect your time with your children. The lawyers of Vista Family Law are experienced in creating thorough parenting plans that make sure that your time with your child is protected. 

How Can We Help?

The attorneys of Vista Family Law can draft a fair custody arrangement and parenting plan for you that will protect your access to your children while reducing the risk of litigation. We will guide you through mediation to help you reach a resolution and hopefully avoid going to court entirely. If a resolution is impossible, then we will fight to protect your custody rights.


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