When a couple separates, they will have to decide upon custody of any children they had together. These custody decisions are sometimes amicable and simple, but some battles over custody can become highly contested. When the situation becomes too emotional and intense, you’ll need a Sacramento child custody lawyer on your side to assist you with the proceedings and fight for your rights.
At The Law Offices of Dianne M. Fetzer, we have experience with handling child custody negotiations. We can work with you to try to obtain a positive outcome for you and your children.
Dianne M. Fetzer founded her practice shortly after 2000. She spent time working in other family law firms and decided she wanted to help people directly by opening up her own practice. Since then, Ms. Fetzer has worked on numerous cases and helped many people going through divorces and other family law matters in Sacramento, CA.
With over 25 years of experience, Ms. Fetzer can approach your case from a position of knowledge. She’s seen many types of cases come through family court and can approach your situation with experience.
Even in the most amic able divorces, child custody can be a complicated part of the equation. Ideally, both parents can share custody of the children and are able to agree on a plan.
If you and your spouse cannot agree on where your children should live and how much time they should spend with each parent, the court intervenes. The court will look at several factors, including:
Developing and negotiating a child custody or visitation arrangement can be difficult. It is important to have a child custody lawyer who understands your custody options and can help you advocate for a solution that works for your family. Talking with an experienced child custody attorney is the first step to making sure you obtain the custody arrangement that is best for your circumstances.
Custody is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and a couple can negotiate different custody scenarios depending on their preferences and situations, as discussed above. When negotiating custody, you’ll need to determine if you want joint or sole custody and decide who will maintain physical and legal custody after the divorce.
Physical custody is who has a child in their house. Parents will typically share the time with the child, though some parents opt to give up physical custody. You can negotiate with the other party to try and come up with a custody agreement you both agree with. If you take the case to a judge, they will examine the relationship between the parent and child and the living situation to determine who receives how much physical custody.
Legal custody constitutes the ability to be involved in big decisions for your child. These decisions might include what school your child attends, if they can participate in after-school activities, diet, religion, and healthcare.
Most parents will want to maintain joint legal custody, even if they do not have primary physical custody. Without legal custody, most often the other parent will be allowed to have sole control over any decisions the child makes until they turn 18.
Joint physical custody is an agreement where both parents will share time having the child in their home. Joint physical custody does not necessarily need to be a 50/50 split, and you can work with your attorney, the other party’s attorney, and the judge to come up with a solution that works for your children.
Some families opt for an equal split. The child may spend one week with one parent and the next with the other, or the child may spend half a week with a parent before switching off. Other families opt for one parent to have more time with the child. For instance, you could work out an agreement where one parent has the child for 12 days and then switches with the other for a weekend.
Sole physical custody involves one parent always having the child in their house. The other parent may maintain visitation rights but will not have the child in their house for any long period of time.
Life can be unpredictable. There may be times when you or your former spouse will need to move. It may be across town, across country, or out of the United States, but in any case, relocation means there will likely be a need to make changes to the custody agreement.
The goal for the court is to keep life for the children as consistent as possible. This also includes financial support. This can be difficult if one parent is moving far away. Experienced attorney Dianne M. Fetzer can help you understand the factors that go into changing the custody order. The court will consider many factors, including:
After a divorce, your former spouse may drop a bombshell on you and tell you they are moving away and taking your child with them. If it’s a short move across town, it may not be a big deal. But if you have the right to physical custody of the child, you should act quickly to motion the court before the move to make sure you maintain your rights.
California asks most people in this situation to file a motion with a judge to place the issue of the move before the court. The judge can make necessary changes to your custody agreement or send you to CCRC to attempt to work something out between you. You should speak with a family attorney before you file the motion to obtain a feel for what your legal rights are and how you can respond to this move.
Before speaking with a judge, you may want to reach out to the other parent first and see if you can come to a compromise without involving the court. An attorney can help with this, too, as they will know the laws and can use that to leverage a better deal for you.
Moving far away isn’t the only reason to petition a judge for a change in your custody arrangement. Any change in living arrangements for either parent can lead to a custody arrangement change. Some of the reasons judges may grant an amendment are:
You can attempt to work out a new custody arrangement with the other party, but this will not always work. In situations where you believe abuse or neglect is happening, you should contact a lawyer and petition a judge for a hearing to discuss the situation and argue for an amendment.
There’s a popular misconception that only a judge’s rulings determine a divorce’s terms. This scenario is not always the case, and families can go to mediation to lay out the terms of a divorce and custody before stepping into a courtroom. You can agree on a custody plan that works for both of you and have your lawyers work together to make sure everything is legal.
Once you have the plan mapped out, you can take it to a judge for approval without a court appearance. A judge will ensure everything is proper and then sign off on the agreement to make it official.
Lawyers can charge whatever they see fit for their services, so there is no one answer to the question of price. You’ll spend more or less money depending on where you live, the experience level of the attorney, the complexity, and the scope of the case.
In general, a family attorney will cost around $300 and $500 per hour. You will also have to factor in any retainer fees for the attorney’s services. While this number may give some sticker shock, you must remember that having an attorney on your side is vital in many custody cases. It could be the difference between setting up an agreeable custody situation and one that leaves you out in the cold.
Many lawyers will offer a consultation where they can discuss your case.
No law in California or the rest of the country says you need a lawyer when dealing with a divorce or custody case. Some people choose to represent themselves when going through these situations. However, most people with legal knowledge will push back on self-representation and suggest hiring legal counsel to help you through the case.
Child custody battles are inherently emotional. You will want to have as much time with your child and control over their life as possible. You may not know how to express this to a judge or what your legal rights are. That’s where your attorney comes in. An experienced family attorney will not have the same emotional stakes in the case as you do, and that’s what lets them operate from a place of rationality.
Since you’re so close to the case, it will be difficult to effectively evaluate it. You may not be able to see the same nuances an attorney can with an outsider’s perspective. An attorney will have an unbiased view of the situation and can explain your chances and course of action.
This isn’t to say that your attorney is an emotionless robot. An experienced attorney like Dianne M. Fetzer will have empathy for your situation, but she also won’t be afraid to make her opinions known and give you the tough talks necessary to get you through the case. A lawyer will also be better for negotiating with the other party and arguing for you in court. You want someone who can speak a judge’s language and can present your case properly.
When you need answers to your California family law questions, contact The Law Offices of Dianne M. Fetzer. We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee to help you understand your available options.