Saturday, June 9, 2007

Child Custody Battles: What to Expect in California

Custody information provided by a family law and divorce attorney serving the Temecula, Murrieta, and Hemet areas of Riverside County, California.

Custody battles are difficult. Whether custody includes a divorce or a paternity matter, the process and choices are same. This blog is written to help parents understand the court process in child custody cases. Set forth below is the general information about a California custody battle:

  • Get a Good Family law Attorney: Not every case requires an attorney. However, if you know you are going to be involved in a custody battle, it is necessary to get a competent, experienced child custody attorney. An attorney will file your custody paperwork quickly and help you avoid the pitfalls of the custody process. Since custody battles are time-sensitive issues, it is important to get your case to court quickly. Lost time often means lost custody.
  • File a Lawsuit: Before the court has the ability to make any orders which are binding on the parties, one person must file a court action. The court action can a paternity suit , a legal separation (if the parties are married and are not intending to divorce), or a divorce action.
  • File an Order to Show Cause: One parent must an Order to Show Cause (or OSC). An Order to Show Cause is essentially an appointment to see the judge. In a custody matter, the party would request orders for custody, visitation and child support.
  • Get a Court Date: After the paperwork is prepared, it is filed with the court and a court date is issued. Generally, it takes eight weeks to obtain a court date in Riverside County.
  • Get a Mediation Date: At the same time the OSC is filed, the parent must obtain a mediation date. Mediation is a court-ordered process which is required before judge has the power to grant custody or visitation orders in any paternity, divorce or legal separation action. Mediation occurs in the courthouse by a court employee and is free. No lawyers or third parties are allowed in mediation. Mediation tries to resolve and custody and visitation disputes without the need for lawyers and judges. The parents are not allowed to bring up child support or spousal support issues, or anything other than where the child will live, and when the child will see the other parent. the role of mediation is to help the parties' establish a workable custody and visitation agreement.
  • Attend the Court Hearing: Regardless whether you and the other parent have reached a custody and visitatation agreement, you must attend the court hearing. If the parties cannot reach a custody agreement, then the judge will read the mediation recommendation and then make orders for custody and visitation.
  • Evidentiary Hearing: If one party does not like the court's custody and visitation orders, he or she can have a full hearing and put on evidence in an effort to change the court's mind.
  • 730 Evaluation: Another way to change the court's custody order is by participactin in a 730 evaluation (custody evaluation). This is a home study of both parents conducted by a psychologist who makes a detailed report, including custody recommendation to the judge. Although the custody recommendation does not have to be followed by the court, it will carry great weight in helping the court make a decision.
  • Minor's Counsel: If the children are older, minor's counsel can be appointed. Minor's counsel is a lawyer who is appointed to represent the children in court. This attorney must express the children's custody wishes to the judge.
  • 3111 Investigation: A 3111 investigation is similar to a 730 evaluation, except that it is conducted by a court employee, who will typically only investigate one issue.
  • Attend the custody trial: Eventually the case will go to trial. At trial, the parties has one last time to present evidence to try to convince the court that a particular custody order is best for the children. The court will then issue a final court order for custody.
  • Follow the Court Order: After the custody order is issued, there will be some things about the custody and visitation order that both parents do not like. Follow the court order any way. If both parents agree later on that the court's orders for custody and visitation should be permanently changed, put those changes in writing.

If you live in the Temecula Valley, including the Temecula, Murrieta, Menifee, Lake Elsinore, Hemet and Riverside areas of Riverside county, California, and you have any questions about child custody and visitation, child support or other questions relating to divorce, paternity, legal separation, annulment, or any other family law issues, please call our office for a free consultation at (951) 816-9543.

Otherwise, if you would like more information, please visit one of our web sites at: http://www.temeculadivorce.com/ or http://www.familylaw-riversidecounty.com/ or http://www.familylawyerintemecula.com/

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