Establishing or modifying child visitation and child custody orders in a divorce proceeding can be the most challenging aspects surrounding the termination a marriage. The Law Office of Scott T. Stotz offers representation by an Inland Empire child visitation attorney with the knowledge, skills and abilities to help you through this difficult time. We serve as a strong and effective advocate for the rights and interests of you and your children.
Understanding the Process
Contrary to popular belief, the “unfit parent” standard is not relevant to custody and visitation issues unless the alleged “unfitness” is proven to be detrimental to the child’s best interest. Instead, California Courts considering child custody and visitation issues will determine the dispute based on the “child’s best interest.” Gender stereotypes and biases against father’s rights are also largely gone from the picture; although it is clear that fathers can be just as nurturing and vital to a child’s upbringing as mothers are, the gender of the parent may still have some relevance depending upon the age and needs of the child. It is wise to consult with a capable and experienced divorce lawyer if you are concerned about the issue of visitation and parenting time in your divorce. In making a decision regarding child custody and visitation, the court focuses on two primary principles: ensuring the health, safety and welfare of the child and frequent contact with both parents. Unfortunately, these two goals are not always compatible with each other, forcing the judge to make difficult decisions. Having an experienced and aggressive lawyer in your corner can be crucial to ensuring frequent and meaningful contact between parent and child, or restricting access when necessary for the child’s safety or welfare. In making its determination the court looks to many factors to guide its decision-making, including:
Parent’s ability to provide for the child
Number of individuals living with a parent and the available physical space at the parent’s residence
Parent’s prior involvement in the care and the extracurricular activities of the child
Availability and quality of schooling and the physical distance between a parent’s residence and the school
Child’s preference (if the child is over 12 years of age)
A parent’s willingness to keep up frequent and continuing contact between the child and the other parent
Any history of domestic violence
Any history of illegal drug use
Modifying An Existing Order
In addition to focusing on the best interests of the child, a different and even higher standard applies when a parent tries to modify a previous court order regarding custody and visitation of a child. The court in that instance requires the moving party to prove a “substantial change of circumstances” which would justify the modification. A job loss or substantial change of income, a change in the lifestyle of the custodial parent, or a parental relocation is all examples of what may be substantial changes in circumstances which could justify a modification.