Be Prepared for the Child Custody Process in San Diego

Child custody cases can be emotionally charged and complex, affecting the lives of parents and their children significantly. In San Diego, like in many places, family law courts strive to make decisions that are in the best interest of the child. However, navigating the child custody process can be overwhelming without a clear understanding of the legal framework and procedures involved, and especially without the representation of a child support attorney. Understanding the child custody process in San Diego can help shed light on many key aspects that parents should be aware of when facing a custody case in California. 

Types of Child Custody in San Diego

In San Diego, child custody is divided into two main components: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody refers to a parent’s right to make decisions about the child’s upbringing, including education, medical care, and religious upbringing. It can be either sole, where one parent has decision-making authority, or joint, where both parents share the responsibility.

Physical custody, on the other hand, involves where the child will live and spend their time. Similar to legal custody, physical custody can be sole or joint. Joint physical custody doesn’t necessarily mean a 50/50 split, but rather an arrangement where the child spends significant time with both parents. 

The Best Interest of the Child Standard for San Diego Child Custody

In any child custody case, the paramount consideration for the court is the best interest of the child. San Diego family law courts use this standard to determine custody arrangements and make decisions that promote the child’s well-being and stability. Factors that the court considers when determining the best interest of the child include:

  • The child’s age, health, and emotional well-being
  • The parents’ ability to provide a safe and stable environment
  • The child’s existing relationship with each parent and other family members
  • Each parent’s willingness and ability to facilitate a positive relationship between the child and the other parent
  • The child’s educational and social needs
  • Any history of abuse or neglect
  • The child’s preference, depending on their age and maturity

Mediation and Parenting Plans in San Diego Family Law 

Before heading to court, parents are often required to attend mediation for child custody in San Diego. Mediation is a process where both parents, with the assistance of a neutral mediation lawyer, work together to create a parenting plan that outlines child custody and visitation schedules. This approach encourages parents to communicate effectively and reach an agreement that considers the child’s best interest.

It is important to note that in San Diego the mandatory, court-connected “mediation” before a contested custody hearing, now referred to as “child custody recommending counseling” through Family Court Services is not confidential.  Although the goal for the session is for the parents to reach an agreement, in the event they do not reach an agreement, the Family Court Services counselor makes written recommendations to the judge about what the counselor/mediator thinks is in the children’s best interest.  The Family Court Services recommendations often are heavily weighed by the judge in making their decision and, therefore, it is critical to be well prepared for the Family Court Services date.

If mediation is unsuccessful, the court will then step in and make custody decisions based on the Family Court Services recommendations, evidence, and arguments presented by both parties. Mediation can assist with making child custody decisions quicker and often cost both parties less than when the San Diego family law courts need to be involved. 

In some situations, parents may agree to utilize a private child custody mediator at their own expense.

Mediation is not a one size fits all solution. If abuse or a high conflict situation is at play, disclose this information to your attorney so they can help prepare the best course of action for your child custody situation. 

Court Hearing and Custody Evaluation

If parents cannot agree on a custody arrangement during mediation, a court hearing will be scheduled. During the hearing, each parent presents their case, and the judge will make a final decision based on the best interest of the child.

In some cases, the court may order a custody evaluation by a mental health professional or a licensed evaluator. The evaluator will conduct interviews, observe interactions between the child and each parent, and assess various aspects of the family’s situation to provide the court with an expert recommendation on custody arrangements. If the evaluation request is based on determining the potential for domestic abuse or domestic violence, please seek the help of a restraining order lawyer.

Modifications and Enforcement For Child Custody in California

Child custody orders are not set in stone and can be modified if there is a significant change in circumstances. For instance, if one parent wants to relocate or if the child’s needs change, a modification may be necessary. To request a modification, the parent must file a motion with the court, explaining the reasons for the change.

Additionally, if one parent fails to comply with the custody order, the other parent can seek enforcement through the court. Non-compliance with custody orders can have serious consequences for the violating parent, including being found in contempt of court or changes to the custody arrangement. 

Working With A Child Custody Attorney in San Diego, California 

Facing a case that involves child custody in San Diego can be emotionally challenging, but understanding the process can help parents navigate the system with more confidence. The primary focus of the court is always the best interest of the child, and parents should prioritize cooperation and communication to achieve the most favorable outcome for their children. Whether through mediation or court proceedings, finding an amicable resolution is crucial in ensuring a stable and nurturing environment for the child’s well-being. 

The experienced San Diego child custody attorneys at Fair Cadora are available to guide parents through every step of their child custody journey. We have extensive experience handling child custody cases in San Diego. Our goal is to help our clients get the best outcome from their case without breaking the bank and keeping what’s best for your family at the forefront. If you’re dealing with a case that involves child custody in San Diego, contact one of our family law experts at Fair Cadora to discuss your options today.