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Child Custody & Visitation

For most parents, the most important aspect of their divorce case — and the most emotionally charged issue — is the children. At the Law Office of Karen R. Leder in Elk Grove, California, we can assist parents in establishing parenting plans and orders that are in the best interests of the children. We provide highly effective, yet empathetic representation for our clients as they work through difficult concerns regarding child custody.

Applicable Law

California Law provides that, in most cases, the best interests of the children should result in frequent and continuing contact with both parents. That having been said, there is no other legal issue that has such a wide possibility of outcomes. Further, it is almost impossible to overturn a bad custody ruling on appeal, as it is only reversible error if no reasonable person could have reached the same conclusion as the family law judge. Thus, it is incredibly important to get the best result possible at the first custody hearing.

The Importance of Seeking Professional Advice

Many parents do not consult an attorney until after their custody situation has taken a turn for the worse. Every family situation is unique and no two children are alike, so there is no one-size-fits-all strategy to handling child custody issues. Our attorneys pay close attention to the very specific facts and concerns of each client's individual family dynamic. Further, our clients have the benefit of having two attorneys collaborating to achieve the most creative approach. The best advice any parent can receive is to talk to an experienced family law attorney before going to custody mediation or attending a hearing.


Custody Ground Rules

While it is impossible to outline on paper the myriad of issues that can arise in a custody situation, there are a few ground rules that apply to all cases. Whether the case is one for divorce, or a Uniform Parentage Act case where an unmarried couple has children together, the case will get set for court-ordered custody mediation prior to the judge hearing the case on the issue of custody.

Mediation

Custody mediators are mental health professionals employed by the County ("Family Court Services") or specially-approved private therapists hired by the parties. These professionals (also know as "Child Custody Recommending Counseling" providers) are solely concerned about custody and visitation. They provide written recommendations to the judge containing that therapist's opinions as to the best parenting plan for each family. These mediators meet with both parents, and interview any children over the age of five years on an as-needed basis. They then prepare a written evaluation with custody and visitation recommendations. The parties and judge receive a copy of that report prior to the subsequent hearing. At the hearing, the judge will review the mediation report, as well as the written and oral arguments of the parties or their attorneys, and issue a custody and visitation order.

Little Girls

Know Your Options

There are two types of custody mediators: Family Court Services, which is free, and private mediators, for which the parties must pay. Each has its strengths and drawbacks, and it is important to discuss which is more advantageous to the case prior to participating in mediation. If a party is scheduled for Family Court Services and believes private mediation would be a better choice, he or she has only a few days to file papers to shift gears. Procrastinating can have dire consequences. Since our telephone consultations are free and usually completed within a day or two of requesting one, there is no reason for you not to get advice from one of our attorneys before going any further.

Guardianship & Grandparents' Rights

There are particular circumstances that make it appropriate for grandparents, and other close family or friends, to obtain guardianship rights or grandparents' rights to children. These cases are very factually driven, and it is difficult to articulate generalities. If you find yourself in a situation where you believe this may be necessary and appropriate, our firm would be happy to discuss, analyze, and handle the matter.