Murphy, Vu, Thongsamouth & Chatterjee, LLP provides compassionate counsel with regard to all child custody matters raised in a dissolution action or a parentage case while understanding that child custody and child support are often one of the most difficult issues to resolve.
Legal & Physical Custody in Dissolution and Parentage Cases
Child custody laws in California distinguish between legal and physical custody of a child. Legal custody refers to the responsibility to make major life decisions for a child, and physical custody refers to where a child will primarily reside. When determining the type of custody arrangement that is in a child’s best interests, courts look at many factors, such as:
- Which parent has been the child’s primary caretaker
- The quality of each parent’s home environment
- The parenting skills of each parent, their strengths and weaknesses, and their ability to provide for the child’s special needs, if any
- The mental and physical health of the parents, including whether either parent drinks or uses drugs
- Whether there has been domestic violence in the family
- The work schedules and child care plans of each parent
- The child’s relationships with brothers, sisters, and members of the rest of the family
- If the child is old enough, which parent the child wants to live with
- Each parent’s ability to cooperate with the other parent and to encourage a relationship with the other parent, when it is safe to do so
California has a policy of promoting frequent and continuous contact between a child and both parents after the parents have separated, except where the contact would not be in the child’s best interests. “Visitation” is the common term used to describe time that the non-custodial parent has with the child, while the percentage of time each parent has with the child is the parent’s “timeshare.” The timeshare percentage of each parent also affects child support.
If the parents do not agree on who should be the primary custodial parent, we try to negotiate a resolution outside of court that is favorable to our client. If that is not possible, we bring the issue before the court and strongly advocate for our client. Although there are several steps before a trial will be held in a custody dispute, the ultimate decision will be based on the court’s determination of the child’s best interests at the trial. In order to fully develop the case, we may arrange for psychologists, experts, or other professionals to meet with our clients.
California child support laws hold parents responsible for the financial support of their children until a child reaches 18 years of age (typically). When a parent does not live with his or her child, he or she is required to pay child support to the custodial parent or to the person who is taking care of the child. Child support includes:
- Cash payments based on the parent’s income and the needs of the child
- Health insurance or medical support for the child
- Payments for child care
- Payments for reasonable health care costs that are not covered by health insurance or regular medical support
- Typically payments for educational expenses and extra-curricular expenses.
Child support is based on the combined income of each parent. Each parent is required to submit an Income and Expense Declaration to the court, which is a form listing all of a person’s financial information in detail, including income, expenses, assets, property, and debts. Once the court determines each parent’s income, it calculates a final figure that determines how much a non-custodial parent will be required to pay the custodial parent in child support.