Fresno Family Law Attorneys

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Child Custody

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Fresno Child Custody Attorney

Call a Trusted Family Lawyer in Fresno, CA: (559) 900-1263 Child Custody Lawyer

If you need help agreeing on custody arrangements or need to fight for custody rights, work with a Fresno divorce lawyer who can provide you with the experienced and compassionate legal advocacy you deserve. Child custody battles require legal acumen and counsel. But even if you are able to agree on a joint custody arrangement, that arrangement needs to be validated through a court order so it can be legally recognized. Seeking legal counsel is the best way to ensure that you can reach a favorable custody arrangement that can keep the peace between you and the other parent. Our ultimate goal is to help you safeguard your custody rights while preserving relationships and minimizing disputes.

We encourage you to contact us for the help you need, whether after a divorce or separation. If you would like more information, check out the topics below.

Who Has Custody of a Child If There Is No Court Order?

One of the most common questions we receive from separating couples is, "who has custody of our kids right now?" Before an arrangement is in place, it can be extremely difficult to understand which parent has the legal rights to the children, and where they can take them. Additionally, it is a common fear of newly separated spouses that the other parent might take their children out of town, or even out of state.

It is essential to understand what the law says about this period of uncertainty to protect both your rights as a parent, as well as the safety of your children. First and foremost, if there is no custody arrangement in place, both parents have equal rights to their children. This means that there is no legal restrictions on who can take the children, or where. The other parent can take your children anywhere that he or she pleases, and it is not considered kidnapping under the law.

Emergency / Temporary Custody

However, you do have legal options to prevent this or to get your children back. Firstly, if you are afraid your ex-spouse will take and keep your children away from you, you can file for emergency custody to get an expedited and temporary court order. Secondly, if one spouse unreasonably removes a child from the custody of the other, this may be used against him or her in custody proceedings down the line.

Ultimately, it is best for all parties that during this time, couples attempt to keep children's' lives as status quo as possible, without restricting their ability to maintain communication or spend time with either parent.

How to File a Petition for Child Custody

You may have many questions about the child custody process, from how a judge makes a decision about child custody to what steps you need to take to file for custody. In California, filing for custody is generally the same process across the board. You will likely deal with various different steps depending on your situation.

To begin your petition, you will need the necessary forms including:

  • Order to Show Cause
  • Application for Order and Supporting Declaration
  • Child Custody and Visitation Application
  • You will need to fill out the correct information on the Order to Show Cause form and address it to the appropriate California Superior Court, filling in your name as the petitioner and the other parent’s as the “respondent” regarding child custody. Next, you will complete the Application for Order and Supporting Declaration, filling out all applicable information, including your preferences for custody. Lastly, you will fill out the Child Custody and Visitation Application to provide any additional information in support of your child custody filing. You will need to make sure they are processed by the court correctly and that you serve the other parent with a stamped copy of the entire “child custody package” at least 16 days before your hearing.


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    Types of Child Custody in California?

    Child Custody Laws

    There are two types of child custody that parents can seek:

    • Physical custody means the child resides with that parent and is legally in his or her care.
    • Legal custody means that the parent can make vital decisions related to the child, such as decisions concerning the health care or education of the child.

    In addition to that, custody may be divided differently depending on the case. Parents may either share custody, known as joint custody, or one parent may be given sole custody.

    Another type of child custody that can be given is primary physical custody, which means the child will live with that parent a majority of the time. The court may choose to split legal and physical custody differently, such as one parent having sole physical custody but both parents sharing joint legal custody.


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    How Does a Judge Determine Child Custody?

    Child custody matters are nothing to take lightly, as these matters can majorly impact how often you see your child, how much authority you have in your child's life, etc. In these cases, the court's responsibility is to determine the arrangement that is in the child's best interests.

    To make this decision, factors such as the following are considered:

    • Each parent's ability to be the child's caregiver
    • The relationship between the child and each of the parents
    • The child's gender, age, and health
    • How the child would be affected if removed from his or her current environment
    • Whether there is a history of domestic violence or substance abuse by either parent
    • The child's preference (if the child is old enough or mature enough)
    • The physical / mental health of both parents

    When dealing with a family law issue of such great importance, make sure you get the help of a qualified legal professional. Our Fresno child custody attorneys are well-versed in child custody laws in our local courts and we are available to guide you through this process.


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    Joint Custody vs. Sole Custody

    Most parents view a child custody ruling as one of the most important aspects of their divorce or separation. Understanding how custody can be awarded is critical, as parents will need to be prepared to negotiate or fight for the best possible outcome. Custody can be given to one parent or to both, depending on the court’s decision. The varying child custody options are defined below.

    Joint Custody

    • Joint Legal Custody: Legal custody is the right of a parent to make decisions regarding their child’s upbringing. When joint legal custody is awarded, both parents will play a part in the decision-making process. Any decisions made must be agreed upon by both parents.
    • Joint Physical Custody: Physical custody determines where a child will live. With joint physical custody, the child will spend time living with both parents. A parenting schedule will likely be needed.

    Sole Custody

    • Sole Legal Custody: One parent will make decisions on school, religious activities, child care, travel, medical care, etc.—even if the other parent disagrees with some decisions.
    • Sole Physical Custody: The child will live with just one parent (the one with sole physical custody), but will likely still have visitation time with the other parent. A visitation schedule may be needed.

    For most parents, coming to an agreement over child custody can be challenging. That is why having a skilled child custody lawyer by your side can be extremely beneficial during this time.


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    What Is a Parenting Plan? What Must Be Included?

    Also referred to as a parenting agreement, a parenting plan is essentially the schedule by which parents will need to follow when it comes to having time with their children. This plan may encompass the custody and visitation agreement. Ideally, parents will work together to make their own agreements on visitation or parenting time. If you cannot come to an agreement, the court may assign a child custody evaluator to your case, who will make a recommendation on a parenting plan.

    In general, it is recommended that a parenting plan considers:

    • Meeting a child’s basic needs (love, a healthy diet, medical care, rest, etc.)
    • The child’s age, personality, and life experiences
    • Consistency for the child and a sense of security
    • Vacations, holidays, special events, and other dates

    A parenting plan can address both physical and legal custody, as well as visitation time. You can choose to make your parenting plan as general or specific as you want, including restrictions and other details as well. It is important for a plan to have enough detail to be easily understood and enforced, but still remains flexible enough to adjust to life events. You and the other parent may choose to work with a mediator who will guide you both through the process, or you may decide to retain legal counsel.


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    Will I Get Child Visitation Rights?

    Custody Plans

    Visitation orders dictate how parents will share the time with their children. The non-custodial parent will have visitation rights under an order issued by or approved by the court (if parents decided upon an agreement together). There are several different types of visitation orders that can be issued based on the specific factors involved and the situation of both parents.

    In most cases, visitation will be based on a schedule. Have a detailed visitation plan is beneficial for both the parents and the child, as it creates stability and consistency. There are other options though. For example, a reasonable visitation order doesn’t include specific details or dates as to when the child will be with each parent, allowing the parents to work it out among themselves. If parents are still close and get along well, a reasonable visitation order may be appropriate.

    Another form of visitation is supervised visitation. If the child’s well-being or safety is a concern when they are with the non-custodial parent, supervision may be necessary. The other parent, another adult, or even a professional agency may step in to supervise the visitation time between the non-custodial parent and child. Supervision may also be used if a parent has been away for a long time to build familiarity with the child.


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    Do Grandparents Have Visitation Rights?

    Grandparents do have the right to ask for reasonable visitation with their grandchildren. In order for the court to grant visitation time to grandparents, there must have been a pre-existing relationship between the grandparent and child that created a bond between them. This would mean that visitation remains in the best interests of the grandchild still. In addition to that, the court will also seek to balance visitation rights of grandparents with the rights of the parents to make decisions regarding their child. That means if one parent is against the idea, the court will have to take this into consideration.

    If a grandparent wants to request visitation under California law, they will need to file a petition in court and serve their papers (notice) to the parents. How a grandparent will file this petition will depend on whether or not there is a family law case going on between the child’s parents. If there isn’t a case, they will need to start a new case for their filing. If the judge makes the decision to grant visitation, and order will be signed.


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    Can I Modify a Child Custody Agreement in California?Child Custody Lawyers in Fresno

    Whether a custodial parent is relocating or a non-custodial parent wants more visitation time, understanding how to modify a child custody order is important. The court will consider granting a custody modification when there has been a significant change in circumstances.

    This can include the following:

    • A parent moves to a new area
    • Custodial parent wrongfully refuses to give the other parent visitation
    • Drug abuse, physical / emotional abuse, or another type of criminal activity
    • Medical or health condition of a parent changes

    Any change in circumstance or issue that causes instability in the child’s life can lead to a custody modification so long as it remains in the best interests of the child. Either parent can request a modification at any time, but ultimately, the decision rests in the court’s hands.


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    Does Child’s Preference Affect Custody Decisions?

    If a child is deemed “mature enough” to provide an opinion or make a decision regarding custody, the court is required to consider their preferences under California law. However, the law doesn’t specify what age is ruled to be mature enough, which leaves this open to some speculation from case to case. The older and more composed a child is, the more likely the judge will strongly consider the child’s opinion.

    If your child is old enough and has a clear preference on which parent they would like to live with, it is important their voice is heard. A judge is most likely to give more weight to a child’s opinion if it is clear that they are not unhealthy influenced by one parent or the other. It is up to the court’s discretion whether or not a child’s preference will come into play in a custody decision.


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    Fathers’ Rights in CaliforniaFather's Rights in CA

    One of the biggest misconceptions surrounding child custody is that the court will favor the mother. California courts do not give any additional weight to either the mother or the father. Instead, the court is supposed to make their custodial decision based off of the best interests of the child. This includes reviewing the employment status of both parents, their criminal background, their emotional connection with the child, and various other factors.

    Fathers have just the same rights as mothers do. Some fathers may feel that the stipulations surrounding their role limits their rights to custody. That is why it is so important that fathers take a proactive role in their child’s life. If you want to ensure your rights as a father are upheld throughout the process, retaining a child custody lawyer in Fresno is essential.


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    What Is “Minor’s Counsel?”

    In California, the court may decide to appoint minor’s counsel to a child in a custody case between parents. The child’s minor’s counsel will act as a neutral voice for the child, protecting the child’s rights and emotional well-being. It also protects the child from being forced to side with one parent over the other. Minor’s counsel must always consider what is in the child’s best interests and only provides representation to the child involved in the case. Separate counsel may be provided if more than one child is involved. In some cases, the county will pay for the cost of minor’s counsel representation if the family cannot afford it. In most cases, however, the court will require the parents to cover these costs.


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    Why Choose Our Fresno Child Custody Lawyers?

    At our Fresno family law firm, many things set us apart, including:

    • 30+ years of shared legal experience
    • Custom-tailored legal strategies
    • Skilled advocacy that’s focused on clients’ needs
    • Thousands of satisfied clients

    At Arnold Law Group, APC, we know how to deal with both types of child custody scenarios. Whether you need help reaching a fair agreement with the other parent or you need a courtroom advocate who can help you present your case to the judge, our Fresno divorce attorneys are ready to assist you. We have deep knowledge of how family courts deal with custody matters in Madera, Tulare, and Kings counties.


    Call (559) 900-1263 or request your case review online to find trusted counsel!