FOCUSED ON THE BEST INTERESTS OF YOUR CHILDREN
Huntington Beach Child Custody Attorney
If you are considering a divorce, or are in the middle of the divorce process now, child custody and visitation is likely one of your most serious considerations. Here is a guide to the different types of child custody, and how you can ensure that your legal rights remain protected.
Determining child custody is a painful and challenging process for any parent. Splitting assets, debts, businesses, or real estate in a divorce or legal separation is simply not comparable to having to split your own children. In California, minor children belonging to parents who wish to end their relationship with each other must have an approved custody order issued by the family court.
The Huntington Beach family court system will seek to serve the interests of the children, whether the parents have their own ideas of what that means or not. Regardless of whether you and your partner were married, if you are ending a relationship with your child’s other parent, you must have a child custody order in place. By working with a skilled and qualified child custody lawyer in Huntington Beach, CA, you can better navigate the legal proceedings required to establish the most favorable outcome for you and your children.
Child Custody Representation in Huntington Beach
The Law Offices of Lisa R. McCall offers compassionate representation for couples in the Huntington Beach area. With experience in interstate child custody and extensive knowledge of California child custody laws, our team can help establish custody arrangements that work, even if one or both parents move away to another state.
We understand that every child has unique needs. Every child custody determination must also, therefore, be tailored to your family’s particular circumstances. Custody determination cases are already complex, and the outcomes will profoundly influence you and your children’s lives for years. For these reasons, the family law representation team at the Law Offices of Lisa R. McCall is ready to apply their experience to your needs as they guide you through the child custody process.
What Is Involved in a Child Custody Order?
In California, child custody refers to the right of each parent to maintain responsibility for the care of their children. There are two types of custody:
- Legal custody. This determines who has decision-making responsibilities for the children.
- Physical custody. This determines with whom the children will primarily live.
Each type of custody can be awarded to one or both parents. They are granted according to the following:
- Joint custody. This awards both parents a share in the responsibilities of taking care of the children.
- Sole custody. This awards only one parent the right and responsibility to care for the children.
A child custody order will assess several factors, such as:
- The age of the child
- Their health needs
- Emotional ties between the children and parents
- Involvement in the community
- Each parent’s ability to provide stability for the child
- Any history of violence or substance abuse
The courts will take all circumstances into consideration to determine what will be in the interest of the children.
Child Custody Determinations During a Divorce
Although it is not necessary for a couple to have been married for California law to require a child custody order, divorce is by far the most common reason parents engage in custody determination cases. Once one spouse has initiated the divorce process by filing, several steps will be subsequently taken to complete the child custody process. They include:
- Temporary custody orders. These provide stability for the children during proceedings by granting temporary custody arrangements.
- Custody proposal. Both parents will draft their proposed arrangements for visitation, decision-making responsibilities, and child support.
- Negotiation. When couples are open to communication, they can attempt to reach an agreed-upon custody arrangement that is mutually beneficial. If they require a third party to help them resolve disputes, mediation may be an effective approach.
- Evaluation. An evaluator may be appointed to interview parents, speak with the children, or observe parent-child interactions. This will help with a court assessment of each parent’s ability to provide a safe and supportive environment for the children.
- Court proceedings. Should a court-approved arrangement not be established during the negotiation or mediation stages, the courts will conduct their own proceedings to determine the most suitable custody order. Each parent will present evidence to support their arguments for any proposed arrangements.
- Custody determination. After all evidence and arguments are presented, the court will make a final decision regarding the children’s interests. This will involve awarding shared or sole custody and establishing visitation schedules. Both parents are legally required to follow the order and could face legal consequences for any violations.
- Review and modification. As future circumstances change, such as relocation or changes in a child’s needs, parents can petition for a modification to the custody order.
If you are facing a divorce or are considering filing for one in California, you should speak with an experienced child custody attorney who can offer counsel and guidance from the start of the process.
The Cost of a Child Custody Case in California
The cost to file for custody is not a fixed amount in California and will vary depending on various factors. Generally, you should expect to pay between $400-$500 in filing fees alone, which does not include any fees incurred in the process of arriving at a custody determination, such as attorney’s fees, mediator fees, and court-related expenses. Depending on the complexity of your case, these fees can quickly add up.
If the filing fee itself presents a financial hardship, you may be able to apply for a fee waiver program if you are already receiving certain public benefits. You can apply for a waiver along with your custody petition by asking the court clerk.
Can You Get a Court-Appointed Attorney for Child Custody in California?
When entering into child custody determination proceedings in California, you are allowed to hire an attorney to work your case. However, the court is not obligated to provide one for you. Instead, California family courts can appoint an attorney to represent your minor children. Either parent can request an attorney for their children if they are in agreement. This is known as Minor’s Counsel. While parents can request that one be appointed, only the judge can actually make the appointment.
If you are about to enter into child custody determination proceedings, it is highly recommended that you partner with your own child custody lawyer who can advocate on your behalf for your interests and rights. Ultimately, the family court system will make final determinations based on what they believe to be in the interest of the child. However, a skilled attorney can present a solid case to the judge that demonstrates how your preferences are the most beneficial for the child.
How Much Does a Child Custody Lawyer Cost in California?
When working with a qualified Huntington Beach child custody attorney, the exact amount that you should expect to pay in fees will vary heavily based on the unique circumstances of your case and the experience level of your lawyer. While child custody representation can be pricey, it is important to consider how essential it is to ensure that all your rights and interests are protected in your case. It is much more difficult to make changes to a custody determination after it is made than it is to present arguments during the initial determination.
Generally, a child custody attorney with the proper experience to handle your case will cost between $3,000 and $5,000. Many lawyers can charge an hourly rate of up to $500 an hour, but others will instead opt to charge a flat fee for handling the case. To better avoid surprises, make sure to discuss all fee arrangements and payment structures with your attorney upfront.
Who Pays Attorney Fees in Child Custody Cases?
Generally, in California family law disputes, each party is responsible for paying their own attorney and legal fees. However, there are certain situations in which alternative arrangements can be made. They include:
- Fee shifting. In some situations, courts may order one parent to pay for the other parent’s attorney fees. Intended to provide balance where there are disparate resources between the couple, fee shifting may be applied if one parent has a significant financial advantage or was found to have intentionally engaged in conduct that forced the other parent to seek legal help.
- Cost sharing. Sometimes, both parents may agree to share the attorney fees associated with their child custody case. In cost-sharing arrangements, both parties mutually divide the expenses, sharing responsibility for all fees equally or proportionate to their financial capacity.
Although parents can work together to agree on an arrangement for dividing their financial responsibility for legal fees, the judge has the final discretion. The court will likely take into consideration each party’s conduct and financial ability. Find out more about what factors will impact the fees you’ll be responsible for by discussing your case with your Huntington Beach child custody lawyer during an initial consultation.
Speak With Your Huntington Beach Child Custody Attorney Today
No parent should feel like they have to prove their suitability to care for, love, and provide for their children. Child custody determination cases are among the most emotionally challenging aspects of any divorce or legal separation. The team at the Law Offices of Lisa R. McCall understands the emotional weight involved in these cases. Our firm can provide compassionate and supportive care and counsel throughout the entire process. Contact our office today to begin discussing how you can protect your rights as a parent.