Family Law Overview
Personal Service | Individual Attention
Oceanside Child Support Attorney
Navigating a divorce is a difficult, confusing, and emotionally charged experience, but it can be particularly upsetting for children. Regardless of whether you and your ex are on good terms, you are both legally obligated to provide for your child’s financial, physical, and emotional needs until they reach adulthood. If you are like most parents, you are deeply committed to protecting the health, safety, and well-being of your child and want to continue doing so after your marriage is dissolved and you begin your separate lives. One of the most critical legal issues you face during your divorce is developing a child custody agreement that serves the best interests of your child, makes the divorce process as painless as possible for them, and allows you both to remain active parts of their life. Creating a fair, respectful child custody agreement is absolutely necessary to protect your child and ensure they can thrive in this new family dynamic.
Learn more about child custody by reviewing the information below, then contact Paula D. Kleinman today to discuss your case. Retaining the services of an experienced Oceanside child custody lawyer empowers you with the knowledge and support you need to approach this situation with confidence and reach a quick resolution that works for your family. Our firm understands that divorce is a stressful and often overwhelming time for most families, and we are fiercely committed to finding the right solution for your unique circumstances.
How Does Child Custody Work in California?
Child custody encompasses the set of rights and responsibilities parents have to take care of their children and meet their needs. You and your ex can develop a child custody agreement on your own and have it signed and approved by a judge. After you file this agreement with the court clerk, it becomes a legally binding and enforceable court order. If you are unable to reach an agreement outside of the courtroom, the judge will make the final determination about child custody in a court hearing. To make this determination, they will consider factors such as the child’s age, health, and ties to their home, school, or community, the emotional connection between the child and the parents, the ability of each parent to properly care for the child, and whether either parent has a history of domestic violence or substance abuse.
Along with the custody order, the judge will likely also create a court order for child support. These orders are related in that the amount of parenting time each parent spends with the child impacts the amount of child support ordered by the court. However, it is important to remember that these are separate court orders with their own requirements, and failure to adhere to the terms of one order does not influence the other order. For example, if your ex refuses to pay court-ordered child support payments, you cannot prevent them from exercising their visitation rights. Likewise, if your ex does not allow you to spend time with your child, you cannot stop making child support payments.
What Is Legal Custody?
In California, two types of custody are involved in a custody agreement: legal and physical custody. Legal custody is defined as the right to make important decisions about the child’s health, education, and welfare. This includes decisions about:
- Where the child will live
- Doctors, dentists, and other health professionals (excluding emergency situations)
- Psychiatric, psychological, counseling, therapy, or other mental health needs
- School and childcare
- Sports, summer camp, and other extracurricular activities
- Travel and vacation
- Religious institutions and activities
One parent can retain sole legal custody in order to make decisions without input from the other parent, or both parents can pursue joint legal custody, so they share the same rights and responsibilities. While joint legal custody gives both parents the right to make decisions regarding the above aspects of their child’s life, it does not mandate that both parents must agree on every decision. However, they should remain in constant communication with one another and cooperate when approaching these issues to avoid problems from arising that would land them back in court.
In most situations, parents will share joint legal custody. However, exceptions occur in cases where the court decides one parent is unfit or incapable of making these decisions, the parents are unable to cooperate for decision-making purposes, or it would serve the best interests of the child for only one parent to have sole legal custody. Having sole legal custody does not always indicate they will have sole physical custody, and parents who share joint legal custody will not necessarily have joint physical custody, as well.
What Is Physical Custody?
Physical custody refers to which parent the child resides with after the divorce or separation, and the parent with physical custody has the right to keep the child physically present in their residence. Sole or primary physical custody arrangements involve the child living with one parent for the majority of the time, known as the custodial or residential parent, and the other parent, considered the noncustodial or nonresidential parent, generally has visitation rights to ensure they can spend time with the child, as well.
Joint physical custody involves the child residing with both parents, but it does not guarantee that the child will spend equal amounts of time with each parent. Splitting parenting time exactly in half is difficult, so the child will normally spend more time with one parent than the other. A parent that has the child for more than half of the time is called the primary custodial parent. In some cases, a judge will give parents joint legal custody, so they share decision-making abilities but award one parent sole physical custody and the other visitation rights.
How Much Does a Child Custody Lawyer Cost in California?
The cost of hiring an Oceanside child custody attorney primarily depends on the specific attorney you choose and whether the case is contested or uncontested.
Family law attorneys decide on their fees according to their level of experience, their reputation, and their record of successfully settling or litigating child custody cases. Many lawyers charge by the hour, meaning you pay for the time they spend working on your case, including research, preparation, court proceedings, and other expenses involved in resolving the custody matter. Hourly fees can range from $100 to $500 per hour, with more experienced and successful attorneys charging at the higher end of the spectrum. Some divorce lawyers charge a flat fee for their services, and others require a retainer, or a sum paid in advance that they will draw from to cover their expenses.
A contested case refers to a case involving a dispute between the parents regarding child custody, such as one parent who desires sole custody and refuses to cooperate with the other party or make compromises. In these situations, the case will typically proceed to trial, which requires gathering evidence and preparing for litigation and can include a variety of added expenses, such as depositions, court fees for filing motions, serving paperwork, subpoenaing important documents, hiring specialists or expert witnesses to offer testimony, travel costs, and paralegal services. Mediation services to assist you with negotiating the terms of the agreement can cost an additional $500 to $1,500, and a custody evaluation from a child psychologist or other professional can range from $1,500 to $6,000. Clearly, these expenses can quickly add up.
Uncontested cases in which the parents are willing to collaborate to set the terms of the custody agreement are often relatively simple and straightforward, so a flat fee is often the most appropriate method of payment. This fee generally ranges from $800 to $3,000, depending on the complexity of the case. Because contested cases involve significantly more work, attorneys often require you to make a trial deposit to cover preparation and then charge you by the hour to litigate the case. Ultimately, a contested case will be more expensive than an uncontested case and can reach upwards of $20,000 to resolve.
It is imperative that you discuss with your Oceanside child support lawyer how they intend to charge you for their services before you sign any fee agreement. Your contract should clearly outline their fee structure and explain your options for payment, so you understand your obligations, are prepared to meet them, and do not have to worry about being surprised by unexpected fees. While the thought of hiring an attorney may seem intimidating, it is the best way to guarantee you and your ex can reach a mutually beneficial agreement that keeps your child’s best interests as the main goal.
Who Is the Best Child Custody Lawyer?
Choosing the best Oceanside child support lawyer to represent you involves requesting recommendations, conducting thorough research into local attorneys, interviewing them individually, and asking questions to determine if they are the right fit for you. You will begin by requesting personal recommendations from friends, family members, colleagues, other parents, or the court clerks at your local family court office. Inquire about their experience with the attorneys they have hired, the results they obtained, and their overall level of satisfaction with their services. When you have compiled a list of potential candidates, the next step is to research them by visiting their website, reading any articles written about them, and consulting popular attorney review platforms.
After narrowing down your list to the most qualified family law attorneys, you will set up interviews with them to learn more about their services. The questions you ask will vary based on the specific details of your case, but you should make sure to ask the following:
- How long have you been practicing law?
- Do you specialize in child custody cases?
- How much experience do you have with these cases?
- What is your philosophy for handling child custody cases?
- Do you offer mediation services?
- Have you handled cases similar to mine
- If so, what was the outcome of the case?
- What strengths and weaknesses can you identify in my case?
- What are my options for resolving my case?
- If my case goes to trial, will you represent me during litigation?
- What kind of outcome can I expect from my case?
- How often will you communicate with me about the progress of my case?
The attorney must demonstrate professionalism and courtesy, be willing to discuss your questions, and provide clear, honest answers without inflating the strengths of your case or underestimating the weaknesses. They should fully engage with you the entire time, work to resolve your concerns, and make you feel comfortable sharing details about your case with them. At the end of the interview, you should feel confident in their ability to handle your case and help you achieve your goals.
Secure the Best Child Custody Agreement for Your Child
If you are concerned about creating the best child custody agreement for your family, contact Paula D. Kleinman today. For over two decades, family law attorney and firm founder Ms. Kleinman has provided the highest quality of legal representation to divorcing parents throughout San Diego County. Our firm offers dedicated, compassionate, and hands-on legal services to determine the goals of each client and create comprehensive solutions to accomplish these goals while keeping the best interest of your child as the number one priority. Unlike other Oceanside child custody lawyers that employ paralegals and legal secretaries to assist in case preparation, Ms. Kleinman personally works with all of her clients from the very beginning of the process until she reaches a resolution for your family.
To ensure you can create the best child support agreement for your family, contact Paula D. Kleinman today to schedule an initial consultation. If you and your ex are on good terms and want to create a parenting plan on your own terms without involvement from a family law judge, she has the mediation experience to help you negotiate a child custody agreement. If you and your ex are unable to reach a fair, respectful agreement outside of the courtroom, she will litigate your case and aggressively advocate on your behalf in court.