Child Custody FAQ

What Will The Court Consider When Making Child Custody Decisions?

In all matters of child custody, courts in California make their decisions based on what is in the children's best interests. In other words, the parents' wishes are secondary to what is best for the kids.

However, it is generally the parents — and not the courts — who know the children the best and are thus in the optimal position to make reasonable child custody decisions. In many cases, the best parenting and custody plans are created outside of court with both parents mutually agreeing on the terms.

Ideally, divorcing parents would always see eye to eye on child custody matters, but we don't live in a perfect world. Child custody and visitation issues are often disputed between divorcing spouses, and when that happens, it may become necessary to ask the court to decide. If this is your situation, the importance of having a family law trial attorney on your side cannot be overstated.

Can A Child Custody Order Be Modified?

Yes, but only under certain conditions. For the court to change a child custody or visitation order, specific rules and requirements must be met.

Generally, for a child custody or visitation order to be modified, both parents must agree on the change, or the court must approve one parent's petition to modify. The court may approve the petition if there is evidence of a significant change in circumstances, such as:

  • One parent's multiple violations of the existing custody order
  • Evidence of domestic abuse
  • Changes in the child's developmental or emotional needs
  • Doubts about the safety of one parent's home
  • A parent's relocation or career change
  • An older child's wishes to spend less or more time with a parent

If you have questions or intentions regarding a change in legal or physical custody, it is important to seek guidance from an experienced family law attorney before trying to make any changes on your own that might violate the existing custody order.

Can I Relocate With My Child After A Custody Order Has Been Established?

In California, a custodial parent has the right to change residences with a child if the move is not detrimental to the child's best interests. However, the custodial parent must provide written notice 45 days in advance of the move.

The non-custodial parent has the right to object to the proposed relocation, and to ask the court to modify the custody order. Generally, a successful objection to a proposed relocation must show that the move would have a negative effect on the child.

In general, before relocating or objecting to a relocation with a child, it is important to consult with a California family law attorney, preferably a Certified Family Law Specialist who has been certified by the California Board of Legal Specialization.

Can A Custodial Parent Deny Visitation To The Non-Custodial Parent?

Generally, in California, divorced or legally separated parents are entitled to reasonable visitation with their kids. But in some situations, visitation may be denied to the non-custodial parent if the visitation is not in the child's best interests.

However, before denying visitation, a custodial parent must take certain steps. For example, if the non-custodial parent's behavior is a threat to the child, the custodial parent can notify the proper authorities and file a police report. The custodial parent may also ask the court to suspend visitation temporarily if the non-custodial parent repeatedly violates the child custody agreement or otherwise poses a threat or causes distress to the child.

Denying the non-custodial parent his or her visitation rights without court approval can be bad for the custodial parent, as the non-custodial parent could petition the court for a child custody modification. This could in turn result in a change in custody that is more favorable to the non-custodial parent.

As with virtually everything in divorce and family law, it is wise to consult with an experienced family law attorney before taking legal matters into your own hands.

Contact A Child Custody Lawyer

If you have questions about parental rights and child custody, call Westover Law Group in Murrieta at 951-290-3268 or complete our online form. We advise and represent clients throughout Riverside, San Diego and San Bernardino counties.