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Your San Diego Child Custody Case: The Basics

San Diego is a great place to raise children. Great weather year-round and sandy beaches gives them kids the opportunity to take part in a lot of outdoor activities. San Diego's multiethnic culture can also give them a world of experiences they couldn't get elsewhere. However, even in such an ideal environment, marriages and parents can go through tough times. If you are a parent faced with divorce or legal separation, you'll want make sure that you are a part of your child's San Diegan life. Sometimes this means that you have to work through a child custody case. Here are some basics about child custody cases for parents living in San Diego.

When is child custody an issue?

Divorce or some type of legal separation typically requires parents to make a decision regarding child custody. Regardless of what causes a split, children will live with either one or both parents. If the children live with both parents separately, the parents must decide on a shared custody arrangement. If the parents do not agree on a custody arrangement, they will present their case to a family court, and the court will decide.

Child custody issues may also arise when unmarried parents have a child. A father may want to preserve his rights as a parent. Paternity must be established, and thankfully, this can be a relatively simple process. In San Diego and the rest of California, parents may fill out a form called a Declaration of Paternity at the hospital when their child is born. This will give both the child and the parents the same rights they would have if the parents were married. Parents may also sign a declaration of paternity after the child is born, and genetic testing is an option when a parent is not cooperative.

How do I get custody of my child if I do not have it?

In order to gain custody of a child, a parent must make a request with the court, called a petition for child custody. This request must be filed with the Family Law Court of the Superior Court of California in San Diego. It is common for parents to go through a mediation process before the petition for child custody is filed. If you get along with your child's other parent, working together to create a child custody plan can make the child custody process a lot smoother.

What types of custody are there?

There are two types of custody: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody means that the parent has the right to make the important decisions in a child's life, such as decisions involving education, health care, and religion. Physical custody means that the child lives with the parent.

Legal and physical custody may be shared, called joint custody. Sole custody is when only one parent has custody of a child. One common arrangement is for the child to live with one parent only (sole physical custody), while both parents have the right to make important decisions for the child (joint legal custody). In this situation, the parent who does not have physical custody will likely have visitation rights.

What is the difference between child custody and visitation?

Child custody addresses the question of how to divide legal and physical custody of a child between two parents. Once that question is addressed and one parent is awarded physical custody of a child, the other "non-custodial" parent may be afforded visitation rights.

Who does my child live with during the custody decision-making process?

During the child custody process, a court may issue a temporary custody order. This is a custody arrangement that will only last until a final custody decision is made. Often, a judge will continue the living arrangement parents already have to prevent disturbing the child's life unnecessarily. However, if the current living arrangement puts the child in danger or is otherwise unfit for the child, courts will make an immediate change.

Do I have to pay child support?

Child support and child custody are often intertwined. San Diego County, as well as the rest of California, follows an Income Shares model of child support which is meant to ensure that a child receives the same financial support whether the parents live together or not. If a noncustodial parent must pay child support, the payments will generally be based on how their income compares to that of the custodial parent.

Get Legal Help with Your Child Custody Case in San Diego

Every child custody case is different, and you may have specific questions about the child custody process for your case. Because the information above is simply general in nature, it would be helpful to speak with a local child custody lawyer who can give you answers that are specific to your situation.

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