Decisions and agreements regarding custody will affect the rest of your child’s life, as well as your life and the life of your entire family. Mr. Ziff knows it is important to talk with a family law attorney to understand how complicated the law in this area can become. He is very experienced and well-respected in the area of child custody in Los Angeles and throughout Southern California.
In California, for the most part, courts are required to assess the best interests of the children. However, you, your spouse, the court, mental health professionals and others who have become involved in the process may have very different ideas about what the children’s “best interests” are. Mr. Ziff often advises clients that even temporary decisions can have long-lasting effects and sometimes even the best of intentions can lead to completely unintended results. This is where Mr. Ziff excels and can help.
It is for these reasons, as well as his genuine interest and dedication, that Mr. Ziff is carefully attuned to changes in the law affecting custody. He spends a great deal of time outside of work attending classes, conferences and study groups In this way, Mr. Ziff has the opportunity to meet and collaborate with judicial officers and personnel, mental health professionals and researchers in this area.
California Law On Child Custody And Visitation
Child custody is one of the most complex and discretionary areas of the law. In California, some of the more important concepts Mr. Ziff assists clients in understanding involve:
- Legal custody addresses whether one or both parents should make the important life decisions. These include decisions involving where your child attends school, medical decisions, religious training, driving, obtaining passports, etc.
- Physical custody refers to the amount of physical time the child is in a parent’s care.
- Parenting plans arise from movement toward encouraging parents, with or without the assistance of child-related specialists, to establish parenting plans that describe specific parameters of the physical custody of the child and what is often called visitation.
- Automatic orders regarding custody occur at the beginning of almost every family law case involving children. These automatic orders go into effect to prohibit you and the other parent from removing a child from the state of California without written consent of the other parent or a court order.
- Initial custody orders: Parenting plans and initial custody arrangements, whether determined by agreement between parents or a court are “temporary” custody orders and may be modified in the children’s best interest by a court or by further agreement of the parents.
- Permanent custody orders/custody judgments are usually made at the time of trial and can be made by agreement continued in the judgment. These orders may be more difficult to modify or change. Unless there is an agreement to change these orders, it is necessary to file a request for a post-judgment modification and obtain a court order.
- Jurisdiction issues sometimes arise, usually where more than one state or country is involved. The question of which state or country should make custody determinations can be crucial to the outcome. These issues are extremely complicated. It is particularly important to consult with our firm or another attorney who is specifically knowledgeable in international/interstate custody before making any informal arrangements, including allowing a child to leave California.
- Relocation/move-away cases arise when a parent wants to move the residence of the child to another city, state or country. It is difficult because this would necessarily impact or change the ability of the other parent who is left behind to spend time with the child. These situations have special requirements, and whether you are in a situation where you want to move or you want to prevent a child from leaving, we can help you plan and understand the best way to address the matter.
- International/interstate custody and Hague Abduction Convention and the UCCJEA
- Custody and domestic violence/TRO/restraining orders: On extremely short or no notice to the other parent, a parent who alleges domestic violence by the other may be able to obtain custody orders. These orders could completely prevent contact between the child and the other parent, at least temporarily. Before such claims are made or if such claims are made against you, it is crucial to seek legal advice immediately. The time is very short and these decisions, in certain circumstances, could become permanent custody orders.
- Minor’s counsel, an attorney for your child, may be appointed in certain conflicted custody cases. We can help you interface with this counsel to be sure your child is well-represented and your interests are protected.
- Mental health professionals/parenting coordinators are nonattorney professionals who can play a very useful role in even the most amicable of cases to assist parents in providing the best possible outcomes for their children. These professionals are trained to reduce the impact of parental problems on the children and can be extremely cost-efficient. Where appropriate, we encourage the use of such professionals.
- Custody evaluations involve the use of mental health professionals to provide information about the custody in one or both households. You may find yourself in a position where a custody evaluation has been court-ordered or where you would like to have one ordered. Both in professional organizations and in the litigation process, we work with many local custody evaluators and understand this process well. We can help you navigate through the process for the best possible outcome and, where needed, cogently assert your positions when they differ from those of the professionals or the other parent.
In determining what custodial arrangements are best for the children, parents, professionals and the court look to how each parent fulfills his or her role as a parent. These decisions can otherwise have unintended and far-reaching effects. At the outset and before making any custody decisions, you should discuss how the law may affect you. Seek experienced and knowledgeable legal counsel from a lawyer who can guide you, so that even in the most amicable of circumstances you can obtain the best results for you and your children.