Child Custody and Visitation
As we discussed last week, the issues of child support, custody and visitation are very complicated if both parents don’t mutually agree. Depending on the basis of the custody dispute, a court may order minor’s counsel, who would be a court appointed attorney representing the children; or a psychological evaluation of the family. In these cases the parents may be required to bear all the cost.
An avenue parents can choose to resolve a custody dispute without the necessity of a court hearing, even when there is a difficulty in reaching mutual decisions, is Mediation. In my article entitled, Alternative Dispute Resolution, I explained that Mediation is a hearing in which a third-party works to help the parties reach a settlement of their dispute but does not make any decisions. Mediation is frequently used in family law disputes, like child custody and domestic relations matters, which will result in a legally binding Judgment of Dissolution if an agreement is reached.
An effective Mediator is trained to help both parents in dealing with the legal and financial issues involved in a divorce and help find a wide range of settlement options to reach decisions that will work best for the entire family. In Mediation, the parties reach their decisions mutually and voluntarily with minimum cost and time compared with the traditional court process. To find an effective Mediator in your area, contact your local Court and ask for the ADR Office.
Child custody and visitation problems are not necessarily issues involved in a Dissolution of Marriage. It can also arise in a Petition to Establish Parental Relationship, filed by an unmarried mother or by an unmarried father who have minor children together. In a Paternity action, the Court will determine paternity (or non-paternity if the father is found not to be the biological father of the minor children), and make custody, visitation and child support orders. The determination of child custody, visitation and support is approached in the same manner in a Paternity action as in a Dissolution action. Both parents can use the Court to reach a Parenting Plan or in the alternative use the Mediation process to resolve disputes and reach an amicable resolution as to the best interest of the minor children.
Another action dealing with child custody, visitation and support is a Petition for Child Custody and Support of Minor Children. This action may be filed by married or unmarried parents to obtain custody and support orders without filing for dissolution of marriage/legal separation or nullity action, if the parents of the minor children are married; or without filing an action to establishing a parental relationship, if the parents of the minor children are unmarried. This action does not deal with property or marital status or establishing a parental relationship. To address these other issues, you must file either a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage or a Petition to Establish Parental Relationship. The use of this action is limited.
In Los Angeles County, custody and visitation issues may also be raised through an action initiated by the Child Support Services Department, formally known as the District Attorney’s Office – Bureau of Family Support Operations. Additionally, in Los Angeles County there is an established program entitled, Parents and Children Together (PACT) designed to help separating and divorcing parents work together more cooperatively and successfully. The objective of PACT is to help parents focus on their children’s best interests. In special seminars taught at the Court, parents learn how to communicate more positively and parent more effectively. The PACT program also provides information regarding Family Court Services, mediation, and child custody evaluations.
Remember each situation can be simple or complicated and for each there is a manner in which to resolve your disputes. An attorney should be consulted to give the proper advice on these highly sensitive and life changing decisions.
This column is produced by Mary Der-Parseghian, Esq. For questions or comments, please send your message to 4727 Wilshire blvd., Suite 301, Los Angeles, CA 90010; E-mail: Mary@MaryDLaw.com or call at 323-937-2727. For additional articles please visit our webpage at www.MaryDLaw.com.
© 2011. Der-Parseghian Law Group