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El Cajon Family Law Services - What You Need to Know About Child Custody Cases in San Diego in 2023

Divorce and legal separations are often challenging, and this is even more so when minor children are involved. Navigation of the process of figuring out child custody, visitation, alimony, and other specifications can be overwhelming. Working with a strong and experienced legal team can make your El Cajon divorce or separation case easier for you and also give you guidance and advice during a most difficult time of your life. Doppelt and Forney, APLC is ready to assist with all of your family law divorce and legal separation issues and our team has put together an informative overview of what we believe it is important for you to know about child custody cases in El Cajon Family Law Court. Doppelt and Forney, APLC has represented many family law clients in El Cajon Court House.

What Should You Remember When Minor Children Are Involved?

When going through a divorce where minor children are involved, you must take the time to consider all options and scenarios carefully. There are several crucial things to consider and our legal team strives to help our clients focus on the below ten critical aspects of their case:

  1. Child Custody: Determine how the custody arrangement for the children will be spelled out. This involves deciding where they will live and who will have legal decision-making authority (physical custody and legal custody). This is the first step to see if an agreement can be reached.
  2. Parenting Plan: Create a comprehensive parenting plan outlining visitation schedules. Be sure you account for things like holidays, vacations, special events, and how these decisions regarding the children should be made. A template parenting plan from the County of San Diego Website for Family Court Services follows as reference and [of course] all cases are unique.
  3. Child Support: Calculate child support obligations according to the on line program from the DCSS or our law office can calculate using the disso master program. The on line calculation program is used by the DCSS court and the disso master is used by the Family Law court. The non-custodial parent typically pays this financial support to the custodial parent to help with the children's expenses. This is called the guideline formula in San Diego Family Law Court and the Judge’s have this program to use when making child support orders.
  4. Best Interests of the Child: Courts make decisions based on what is in the best interests of the child. Good family lawyers will help keep the focus on the children's well-being rather than spending time on personal vendettas. These can include bonding, frequent and continuing contact and stability among others.
  5. Mediation: Mediation can be helpful with disagreements about custody and visitation. And best of all, they can help both parties come to an agreement without going to court so both parents can actively participate in the process and decided where their children live and not have a Judge decide. In San Diego Family Law Court, there is mandatory mediation for parents who cannot agree and is called Family Court Services. FCS FAQ is a very useful page on the San Diego County Superior Court Website and link follows for your ease of use.
  6. Legal Representation: Strong and experienced legal representation is critical for your divorce or separation case. Seek the guidance of an experienced family lawyer to protect your rights and interests throughout the entire legal process. Doppelt and Forney, APLC offers a consultation up to 30 minutes and you can schedule by calling 800-769-4748. 
  7. Communication: Maintaining open and respectful communication with your ex-spouse is crucial. If there is going to be any co-parenting involved, it will only be effective and nurturing if there is good communication among the parents.
  8. Child's Emotional Well-being: Divorce can be challenging for children who may be too young to understand. Be attentive to their emotions and offer support during this transition and make sure to talk to children old enough to understand without involving them [in any way] in the pending divorce case.
  9. Modification and Enforcement: Keep up with the legal rights and responsibilities of you and your former spouse. Be aware that custody and support arrangements can be modified if there are substantial changes in circumstances.
  10. Parental Alienation: Encourage a healthy relationship between the child and both parents. Avoid speaking negatively about the other parent or engaging in behavior that might alienate the child from the other parent.

Remember that each divorce case is unique. You must be willing to put in the effort to make the process as easy as possible for any children involved. Working with our El Cajon legal team will help make it easier to consider the specific circumstances of your family when making decisions. Seeking professional advice and putting the children's well-being first can help navigate the process more smoothly. We encourage you to contact us today to get started if you need legal help in El Cajon family law court.

What Custody Considerations are Considered by the Judge?

In a custody case, Judge’s consider various factors to determine the best interests of the child involved. The specific considerations may vary depending on the jurisdiction, but generally, the following factors are commonly taken into account. These are factors, only, and Family Law Codes 3011 & 3020 & 3040 have very useful information regarding the definition of “best interests” as well as many other factors the Court looks to in deciding both legal and physical custody.

  • Child's best interests: The primary consideration is the well-being of the child. It is important to determine which custody arrangement is most beneficial for the child's overall needs.
  • Parent-child relationship: The Judge will evaluate the existing relationship between the child and each parent. All relevant factors affecting this relationship will be considered.
  • Parental fitness: Each parent's ability to provide a stable, safe, and nurturing environment for the child will be assessed. The parent best able to care for the child will be considered for primary physical custody and, in many cases in El Cajon court, both parents are equally fit and a joint legal and joint physical parenting plan will be ordered.
  • Parent's willingness to cooperate: The Court looks favorably upon parents who can communicate and cooperate. Working with each other in making decisions is important to the child's upbringing.
  • Child's preferences: If the child is old enough and mature enough to know their preferences, their wishes are considered. But this is secondary to the other considerations by the Court. Also, this is in the complete discretion of the Judge since some children would like to live with a parent whose conduct may not be in their best interests.
  • Primary caregiver: The Judge will want to know which parent has been the primary caregiver so far. The level of involvement in the child's day-to-day activities and routines will come into play.
  • Sibling relationships: If there are multiple children involved, the Judge will strongly consider maintaining sibling relationships. Separating siblings in a divorce is something very rarely ordered in San Diego Family Law Court over objection.
  • Parental history: Any history of abuse, neglect, substance abuse, or criminal behavior is critical. Any such reports by either parent can significantly impact who is given full/primary custody. As with all cases, it is important to make sure that the following factors are considered when presenting case in Court: evidence; facts; law.
  • Stability and continuity: The Court may consider the stability and continuity of current lifestyles. The parent best able to maintain school and extracurricular activities may be of consideration.
  • Parental support networks: The support systems available to each parent may also be examined. These can include other family, friends, and community resources available to them.
  • Work schedules: Other issues, such as the work schedules of each parent, must be considered. These factors can influence the feasibility of different custody arrangements and terms.

It's important to note that custody decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, and the specific considerations in any given situation may vary. Additionally, laws and practices regarding custody may differ from one jurisdiction to another. If you're involved in a custody case, it's essential to consult with a family law attorney. Our team is filled with experienced family law attorneys who can provide you with guidance tailored to your specific circumstances, and that can help you with your El Cajon divorce case.

What Types of Visitation Arrangements Are There?

Visitation arrangements, also known as parenting time or access arrangements, are made for divorced or separated parents to outline how they will share time with their children. The specific types of visitation arrangements can vary. Factors that can impact these terms often depend on the needs and preferences of the parents and the best interests of the child. Sometimes one parent wants little to no involvement with the children but this is rare and most parent’s want to spend 100% of the time with their children and 50% of the time is their best default position per CA law. Sometimes other issues have to be considered when planning visitation rights and privileges. Here are some common types of arrangements you might encounter:

  • Scheduled Visitation: This is a structured visitation plan with specific days and times outlined in the custody agreement or court arrangements and can outline what days and times a parent is allowed to be with their child.
  • Supervised Visitation: In cases where there are concerns about a parent's ability to provide a safe environment or if there are issues such as substance abuse or domestic violence, the Court may order supervised visitation. This may be professionally supervised or non professionally supervised. Due to the high cost of supervisors, many Judge’s will look to family members or others who are suitable to the Court.
  • Unsupervised Visitation: This is the standard form of visitation where the non-custodial parent is allowed to spend time with the child without the need for supervision. These are set in place when the child’s safety is not in question.
  • Virtual Visitation: With the advancement of technology, virtual visitation has become more common. It allows the non-custodial parent to communicate with the child through electronic means, even if they live far away.
  • Nesting Custody: In this arrangement, the child remains in the family home while the parents take turns living there and caring for the child. The non-custodial parent lives elsewhere during their designated time. This is not a common parenting plan in San Diego Family Law Court Orders.
  • Shared Physical Custody: Also known as joint physical custody, this arrangement involves the child spending significant time with both parents. The child may alternate living with each parent on a daily/weekly or other schedule. In San Diego Family Law Court’s, a joint physical custody order may be “2-2-5”: Monday & Tuesday with one parent and Wednesday & Thursday with other parent and Friday/Saturday/Sunday rotate. This gives equal time for bonding and stability and also frequent and continuing contact for both parents.
  • Right of First Refusal: This provision allows the non-custodial parent the right to have the child during the custodial parent's scheduled time. If the custodial parent cannot care for the child at that time, the other parent can pick it up. For some cases, there is no right of first refusal. For other cases, this can be an hour period [such as more than 8 hours] or may be [more commonly] overnight.

The type of visitation arrangement chosen will depend on various factors. These can vary from one case to another but often include things directly related to the health and well-being of the child or children involved. The ultimate goal is to create a plan that is in the best interests of the child and promotes a healthy and loving relationship with both parents.

Is Child Support for Unmarried Couples Possible in California?

Yes, child support is possible for unmarried couples in El Cajon, California. California law recognizes the rights and responsibilities of both parents, regardless of their marital status, to support their children financially.

When unmarried parents have a child together, either parent can seek a child support order to ensure that the child's financial needs are met. This process typically involves establishing paternity if it has not already been legally established. In situations where unmarried partners share parenthood, either party has the prerogative to pursue a child support decree to ensure the child's financial welfare. This procedure typically encompasses the establishment of paternity, a mandatory legal procedure if it hasn't already been formally recognized as order of Court.

It's essential for unmarried parents in California to take appropriate legal steps to establish paternity and obtain a child support order to ensure that both parents contribute to the financial support of their child. This not only benefits the child but also helps create a legally enforceable arrangement that protects the rights and responsibilities of both parents. If you are facing the legal process of divorce and custody/support disputes as an unmarried couple, our legal team is ready to assist. We can walk you through the process and help you better understand your rights and responsibilities and will explain the process to you. With the right help and guidance, you can make the decision that is right for you.

What is it Like to Establish Paternity?

Establishing paternity in a California divorce and custody case involves several steps, and the process may vary slightly depending on whether the parents agree on paternity or if there is a dispute. Here are the typical steps involved in establishing paternity:

Voluntary Declaration of Paternity: If both parents agree on the child's paternity, they can sign a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity form. This form is often provided at the hospital when the child is born or can be obtained later from the local child support agency. Once the form is signed and properly filed with the San Diego Department of Child Support Services (DCSS), paternity is legally established.

Court Order: If there is a disagreement or uncertainty about paternity, either parent can file a paternity action with the court. This typically involves one parent (usually the custodial parent or the alleged father) filing a petition to establish paternity. The court may then order genetic testing to determine the biological father if necessary to confirm biological paternity to the child. In addition, there is a right to trial for paternity but, with the certainty of DNA testing, this is rarely requested.

Genetic Testing: In cases where paternity is in question, the court may order genetic testing (DNA testing) to determine the child's biological father. The alleged father, the child, and the mother will be required to submit to genetic testing to establish or disprove paternity conclusively.

Contact The Legal Experts Today

If you are involved in a San Diego divorce and custody case and need to establish paternity, it is recommended to seek legal counsel from a family law attorney. They can guide you through the process and help protect your rights and the best interests of the child involved. Our legal team at Doppelt and Forney, APLC is ready and standing by to assist with all your divorce, separation, support, and paternity concerns. Call today to learn more and schedule your free family law consultation either in our office or on line or over phone. A confidential consultation can be scheduled by calling 800-769-4748. We look forward to seeing you and showing you why our law firm is the place more families turn to for all their El Cajon family law service needs!

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