Santa Barbara Child Custody Lawyer

Child custody issues can be some of the most contentious issues in the law. Parents can become extremely protective over their kids and their rights as parents, often leading to drawn-out or bitter battles when courts try to take parenting time away from them. Because a child custody order should be in place any time that parents live in separate households, these are also one of the most common family law issues in California.

The Santa Barbara child custody lawyers at the Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth represent parents and guardians in child custody cases throughout the Santa Barbara area. If you are getting a divorce or going through a separation or break-up with your spouse or significant other, it is important to establish child custody rules and protect your parental rights and your child’s best interests. Call our law offices today at (805) 643-5555 to schedule a free legal consultation on your child custody case.

Types of Child Custody Decisions in California

Child custody can be divided in various ways. Usually, California law permits only two parents to have custody, but other individuals like grandparents or aunts and uncles may also get custody as “guardians.” Custody also comes in multiple types.

Many families fight over “joint” or “sole” custody. Joint custody is when both parents share custody rights, and each parent usually gets different amounts of parenting time. For instance, a common joint custody plan involves the children living with the mother during the week and the father on alternating weekends. Other parenting plans may include a 50/50 time split or 60/40 time split. These parenting plans usually divide up the entire year including weekends, holidays, summer vacation, and other times. Sole custody means that the parents do not split custody, and only one parent has parenting rights.

These parenting rights come in two forms of custody: physical custody and legal custody. When people discuss “custody” by itself, they are often talking about physical custody, which is the right to have your kids live with you. Legal custody is the foundational right to make parenting decisions, such as what religion your child will practice, what school they will attend, whether they can undergo medical decisions, and other broad life decisions. There are also custody rights for “visitation” if the parent has no physical custody rights but still deserves time to see their kids and spend time with them.

Both parents typically maintain legal custody, but if a parent can be shown to be unfit to parent, they can be stripped of their legal custody rights. It is more common for people to be stripped of physical custody rights or for a court to order a custody split that favors one parent because they have more time to parent their children and care for their needs. Still, the court’s default decision is joint custody, since courts typically find it in the child’s best interests to have both parents involved in their lives if the parents are willing and able.

How Custody is Decided in California

When courts look to decide how to award custody, they look at each parent’s willingness to be a parent and their fitness to act as a parent. This means looking at the following factors:

  • The amount of time each parent has to stay home and spend time with the children
  • Each parent’s ability to foster growth and learning
  • Each parent’s ability to care for the child’s emotional needs
  • The safety of each home
  • A parent’s willingness to foster the relationship with the other parent
  • A parent’s willingness and ability to foster relations with siblings and extended family

If one parent appears to be trying to keep the child to themselves and turn them against the other parent, that will be seen as a negative against that parent. Similarly, the court may give a greater custody split to a stay-at-home parent if the wealthier parent spends most of their time at work and cannot be home for the child. This is a complex process and is open to various points of view, and your attorney’s arguments can be extremely helpful in convincing the judge to award you greater custody rights.

Courts are also generally willing to allow the parents to work out custody agreements on their own with the help of their attorneys if they are willing and able to. Judges can act as referees and step in if you are unable to come to an agreement, but parents who can agree on how to divide custody should be permitted to do so, with a judge approving their agreement and giving it the force of law.

Financial Considerations for Child Custody in California

While courts want to see each parent have stable income that can support the children, a parent’s financial well-being is not the only factor. As mentioned, a parent who spends all their time at work may be able to financially provide for their child, but may not be physically present and able to care for the child physically or emotionally.

To solve these issues, courts can also award child support. Typically, this means that a parent who works full time might pay child support to a parent who stays at home and focuses on caring for the children. During the week, the stay-at-home parent may get custody, while the working parent could have parenting time on weekends and holidays. In cases where both parents work, child support can be used to have each parent support the child fairly according to their means with a closer to 50/50 time split.

Call Our Santa Barbara Child Custody Lawyers Today

If you and the other parent of your children live separately, you may have grounds to file for a child custody order to protect your parental rights and custody decisions. Whether you are getting divorced, moving apart, or have never lived together, the court can put a child custody and support order in place to establish parenting time divisions and other custody rules. For a free consultation on your case, call the Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth’s Santa Barbara child custody lawyers today at (805) 643-5555.

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