Where minor children are involved in a divorce, child support, child custody and visitation arrangements must be agreed upon by the parties or determined by the court.
For parents who generally agree on custody and visitation issues, it nevertheless is often useful to work out details such as holiday schedules, vacations, transportation, etc.
When parents are unable to agree on custody or visitation matters, custody mediation is required by the court before deciding on the matter. As limited mediation services are available through the court system, we often recommend that a private mediator or co-parenting counselor be involved to encourage an agreement or provide a detailed assessment of the situation in a recommendation to the court. In some cases, experts are employed to prepare an in-depth custody evaluation and recommendation for the court. This recommendation may become the basis for an agreement regarding custody. If the parents remain unable to agree, they are entitled to a trial on the issues of custody and visitation. At a trial, the court will consider the evidence, including the evaluator’s recommendation, and will then make a final determination based on an assessment of what is truly in the best interests of the child or children.
In determining what is in the best interests of the children, the courts tend to focus on the children’s need to have a continuing relationship with both parents. The focus is on the developmental needs of the child, and only rarely will a court exclude a parent from contact with his/her child.
Child support is normally fixed pursuant to the California Child Support Guideline, which is a formula taking into account the earnings of each parent, the number of children involved, and the time-sharing arrangements between the parents. In addition to the base support provided by this guideline, each parent is expected to contribute to other expenses of the children including uninsured medical expenses, extracurricular expenses, child care expenses, etc.