How are custody and visitation determined?

Any time that custody or visitation is in dispute it has to go through mediation. The court will provide a qualified mediator to resolve the matter with the best interest of your child in mind. If an agreement cannot be made then the mediator will provide a recommendation to the Court. At that time, either party can make a request to the make the recommendation an Order of the Court (in order to make it legally binding) or can dispute the recommendation and ask for a hearing.

How is child support determined?

In California, both parents, whether married or not, are responsible to support their natural and/or adopted children if they’re under the age of 18. Child support is determined by multiple factors such as the income of both parents, the number of children, which parent has custody and how much time the non-custodial parent has with the child. There are other variable that may be added to this calculation (except for health insurance), the amount of monthly expenses isn’t considered in determining the child support amount. This information is then taken and calculated by a software program to determine the amount of support. Once the amount of child support is finalized, it can be modified if either parent’s financial situation changes or if there is a change in the visitation or custody schedule.

What is a legal separation?

Legal separation is another action you can take to end your marriage, however you and your spouse are not free to remarry. A legal separation should never be confused with a “date of separation” and is not necessary in order to file for divorce. If in doubt of what type of action is best for your situation, always consult the advice of your attorney.

When does child support end?

In most cases, child support ends when your child reaches age 18 and is no longer a full time student at an accredited high school. However, there are some cases when child support does continue such as cases with a disabled child or if you are delinquent in your support. And there are also times when child support can stop prematurely. Some examples of child support ending before age 18 are: if your child joins the military, dies, someone else adopts your child, your child gets married before age 18 or comes to live with you and you have legal custody.

How is parentage determined?

Parentage can be determined by either parent by filing a Petition to Establish Parental Relationship with the court. If there is any doubt of the child’s true parentage, blood tests will be taken of the mother, child and alleged father to show evidence of whether there is a relationship.

What if I already have an agreement about how to share the kids?

If you already have an agreement about how to share your kids, make sure it is in writing and that it is filed with the court so it can become a court order. If it isn’t a court order, it is not enforceable by law.

How is the retainer used?

The retainer is treated like a form of prepayment. The retainer is put into a trust account and as work is done, the amount spent is deducted from the retainer balance each month. As the retainer gets close to a zero balance, you’ll be required to make another payment so work can continue.

How long will the process take?

The amount of time will vary significantly depending upon what type of action you’re taking and the details of your situation. The best way to understand the amount of time it will take is to talk with an attorney about your situation to see what kind of challenges you may face.

What is a modification?

A modification is a change to an existing family law order, such as an agreement regarding custody, child support or spousal support. If you want to modify a court order you must go through the same process that you went through to initially get the order. Just remember that the burden of proof is on the party who wants to change the order and must demonstrate a change in their situation.