As a parent, you are driven to protect your children — to help ensure that they are well cared for, loved and supported. When a family law conflict affects your family, it is critical to choose an attorney who understands the complexities of custodial disputes and who can help navigate you to best support and protect your children during a custodial dispute.
At Lopez Law Group, assisting you in obtaining a parenting plan that is in your and your children’s best interest is our top priority. At our boutique Los Angeles family law firm, we use our extensive experience to help you understand the complexities of custodial disputes whether during a divorce proceeding, a modification or enforcement of existing court orders or in connection with a move-away or relocation request
The attorneys of Lopez Law Group are certified family law specialists. We have experience in assisting parents throughout Southern California with the creating and modifying child custody agreements and parenting plans. We also have expertise handling complex custody cases, which can involve relocation of a parent, substance abuse issues, allegations of domestic violence, special needs, mental health issues or other high-conflict situations.
Understanding The Difference Between Legal And Physical Custody
When presented with a child custody issue, we will sit down with you to help you understand your needs and the needs of your child(ren). Together, we will determine the best strategy given your unique needs and guide you through the intricacies of family law.
You should know that California law recognizes two types of child custody: legal and physical. Understanding the distinction is critical to developing a parenting plan that will meet your needs:
- Legal custody grants one or both parents’ decision-making authority regarding major issues such as the school children will attend, medical care and whether and when a passport is issued.
- Joint legal custody: Joint legal custody generally means that the parents must agree upon major decisions affecting the child. Courts in California presume that joint legal custody is in the best interest of children in a divorce. However, specific findings as to whether there has been domestic violence and/or regarding the health, safety and welfare of children can affect how courts determine whether the parents should be awarded joint legal custody or whether one parent should be awarded sole legal custody. This approach is particularly true in cases involving children with special needs.
- Sole legal custody: Sole legal custody usually means that one parent may make major decisions relating to the child without the consent of the other parent. An award to of sole legal custody is more typically awarded when there has been a finding of domestic violence, where there is a child with profound special needs and/or in cases involving extreme high conflict.
- Physical custody is what most refer to as “visitation” or “parenting plan.” Physical custody refers to the amount of time the children are in the parents care and custody.
- Sole physical custody: Sole physical custody generally means that the children reside solely with one parent and have very limited visitation with the other parent. Sole physical custody is most typically awarded when there are issues of domestic violence, substantiated allegations of child abuse, estrangement, and/or where there are ongoing issues related to substance abuse.
- Primary physical custody: If a parent is granted primary physical custody, the child will live with that parent for the majority of the time, while the non-custodial parent will be granted visitation rights. The presumption in California is that frequent and continuous contact with both parents is in the child’s best interest. However, in the case of a child with special needs, regular transitions between environments and routines may not be in that child’s best interests. In these situations, a more practical, creative, and open-minded approach is necessary when addressing an appropriate parenting plan that is in the child’s best interest.
- Joint physical custody: If the parents are granted joint physical custody, the child will spend significant amounts of time with both parents.
Our Los Angeles County Parenting Plan Attorneys Can Devise a Practical Physical Custody Agreement
There is always the potential for serious conflict and disagreement between spouses facing child custody disputes, and matters related to custody can become some of the most difficult a parent will ever face. At Lopez Law Group, we understand. We take the time to listen to our clients, answer their questions and advocate forcefully for them in California courts. Both Eve Lopez and Alex Grager’s background is in psychology, enabling Lopez Law Group to assist you in navigating through these complicated emotional conflicts.
When we represent clients going through a divorce or separation, we help them develop parenting solutions that maximize stability for children. When necessary, we will involve therapists and other professionals to identify the children’s needs and determine the best way to move toward a resolution.
High Conflict Child Custody
Contested custody issues can arise in a dissolution (divorce), legal separation, paternity or in a domestic violence action. If the parties are unable to resolve their disputes as to custody and visitation between themselves or with the assistance of a mediator (conciliation court), the court may, among other things, order the parties into a child custody evaluation or psychological evaluation, of which there are several types. The court may also appoint an attorney for the child(ren).
At Lopez Law Group, we will talk to you about and prepare you for mediation and/or evaluations that you and your children may be required to undergo. We will explain the process to you so you can better understand how to successfully navigate the process.
Stipulations, Parenting Plans, Uncontested Proceedings and Judgments
In the event of an amicable proceeding, many issues can be resolved without ever having to go to court. Agreements can be reduced to writing and the parties can sign the agreement. Lopez Law Group can assist you in negotiating those agreements. Once the agreement has been signed, we can be submit the agreement to the court for the Judge’s signature without your ever having to proceed to court. Once the Judge signs the agreement, it becomes a court order.
Modification of Child Custody and Visitation
Child custody and visitation orders can be changed under certain circumstances. Modifications can sometimes be more complex and challenging than obtaining initial custody orders. At Lopez Law Group we can assist you in addressing requests to modify existing custodial orders.
Contact Lopez Law Group
Los Angeles County child custody attorney Eve Lopez specializes in helping clients navigate the emotionally escalated and legally challenging issues related to child custody. To schedule a consultation with an experienced lawyer, contact us online or call (310)287-3200. For your convenience, evening and weekend appointments are available by request.
Both Spanish and Russian are spoken at our law office. We are located near the 10 and 405 freeways next to the Westside Pavilion.