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Child custody and visitation are probably the most controversial parts of a divorce proceeding. Children should never be used as a weapon against the other parent, and the courts have rules regarding children in these cases. The law states that the health, well-being and safety of the children are of the greatest concern to the court. Other laws state that both parents should have frequent visitation with their children whenever possible.
At The Law Offices of Damian Nolan, our mission is to provide honest, courteous and cost-efficient representation while making the legal process as stress-free as possible. We have offices in Lakewood, Long Beach and Los Angeles, and assist parents with their child custody case throughout Southern California including Torrance, Norwalk and Compton. You can trust our child custody lawyer to defend your parental rights at every step of the process.
Constructing a parenting plan is done once appropriate papers have been filed with the court. The agreement must be in written form and be signed by both parents before a judge will accept it. The division of parenting duties and responsibilities is at the heart of every parenting plan.
It is always preferable that you and your spouse reach an agreement through negotiation rather than having the courts decide for you. Our law firm can help you identify your goals, negotiate with the other party and craft an effective plan that works for you and your family.
In mediation, decisions involving your children and how each of you will handle parenting responsibilities can be determined without going to court. When you and your spouse make an agreement as to how parenting issues will be handled, it is called a parenting plan. This is called a stipulation in legal terms.
The mediator is someone who has an advanced degree in social work, psychology, counseling, or a related field, and has experience working in the field. Mediators are familiar with the procedures of family law courts, and can often recommend other services in your community that may be of use to you. Though mediators are often experienced in therapy or counseling, mediation is not a counseling session. Mediators meet with parents to help parents come to decisions about what is best for their children. Mediators are there to listen as a neutral party, help you examine options for your visitation schedule and parenting plan, help the two of you decide how decisions for your children’s future will be handled, help you examine health and safety issues, and may make recommendations to the judge in your case.
Some California counties require that, if an agreement cannot be reached between the parents in mediation, the mediator must give a written recommendation to the court.
If you and your spouse go to mediation, remember to treat each other with respect, listen to each other’s ideas, and decide what is best for the children, not, necessarily, for you. Go into mediation with an open mind, listen to the other party and the mediator, and try to achieve real solutions to the issues you and your spouse disagree about.
California law says that either or both parents can have custody of the children. If both parents agree on a parenting plan, the judge will generally approve the arrangement the parents have agreed to. If an agreement cannot be reached, a court hearing will be scheduled where the judge will make a decision. However, the judge will usually require the parents to meet with a mediator first.
In some cases, the judge requires that a parenting plan be recommended by an evaluator. The judge may also appoint an attorney, called a guardian ad litem, to represent the children.
A custody or visitation order can be changed. When the parents cannot agree to the terms of the suggested modification, however, a motion must be filed to ask the court to make a change. We can assist you with modifications related to parenting plans, child support and more.
Is mediation confidential?
In the state of California, some counties provide confidentiality for things you say in mediation, and some counties do not. This means that, in some counties, what you say in mediation cannot be used in any way by the other party in court; in counties that do not provide confidentiality, mediators may be required to make recommendations about your case to the judge. In these cases in these counties, what you say could be reported to the other party, his or her attorney, or the judge in your case. However, that is as far as reporting what you say will go, unless the mediator suspects child abuse, in which case, the mediator is required by law to report his or her suspicions to child protective services.
If we can’t come to an agreement in mediation, what happens?
Depending on the court, you may be required to attend a settlement conference or a hearing in court with the judge to resolve your issues. The judge may go over your parenting plan and make decisions about it, or have an evaluation of your parenting plan done by a professional in the mental health field. Other times, the mediator may make recommendations. The mediator in your case may be able to answer questions for you.
Should my attorney go over the parenting plan?
Yes, your attorney should look over your parenting plan before you go to court.
Will my children or other relatives be allowed to participate in mediation?
Sometimes. If you think there is a reason that the mediator should talk to your children or to other relatives, talk to your mediator about it. If you’re a victim of domestic violence, you will be allowed to bring someone with you for support.
How many times will I have to go to mediation?
For most people, one or two sessions is sufficient to come to an agreement, but there are cases where more sessions are required.
When can I get a child support order?
Child support orders can be made when you get a legal separation, annulment, or divorce; when paternity is established, or when you get a restraining order for domestic violence. The order can be changed at any time by requesting a judge to reevaluate the situation if there are changes in circumstances.
How does the court calculate child support?
The state of California has guidelines that are used throughout the state to calculate how much child support a non-custodial parent should pay. If parents do not agree on a child support amount, the judge in the case will base the child support amount on the calculation formula in the guidelines.
How do I change a child support order?
Child support orders can be changed when there is a “material change in circumstances.” A change of circumstances can include a change in the amount of time you spend with your child, to a better paying job, and other reasons. If the judge in your case ordered support in an amount lower than the guideline amount, the amount you pay in child support can be altered at any time without a change in circumstances.
When does child support end?
There are five ways that child support ends: when your child marries, dies, gains emancipation, turns 18 (and is not a full-time high school student), or turns 19 years old, whichever of these happens first.
Will I be able to get child support from a time before the support order?
If you are not receiving public assistance benefits, it is possible for you to get child support from the day you filed to get child support initially. To be able to get child support from the date of your initial filing, you will need to serve the non-custodial parent inside of three months after the date of your initial filing. The judge in your case may order child support from a different date, including the hearing date, the date the other parent was served, or some other date.
Both California and the Federal government require wage withholding to make sure that child support orders are paid promptly. Wage assignments are automatically attached to the wages of the non-custodial parent to deduct child support. The non-custodial parent’s employer will be sent a notice of Wage Earning Assignment in order for a set monthly amount to be deducted from his or her earnings. This payment is delivered to the Court Trustee for accounting and payment to the custodial parent.
The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act of 1998 ensures that out-of-state child support orders are also honored by employers, and an employer’s failure to comply with out-of-state child support orders can allow the custodial parent to take legal action against the non-custodial parents’ employer, among other consequences.
Wage assignments can come from the courts and be signed by the judge in your case, or the California Department of Child Support Services can issue the order on behalf of the custodial parent. The non-custodial parent may ask for a hearing on the matter if he or she wants to stop the order or modify it. There are cases where legal fees, collection fees, and other fees can be considered child support, and these, too, can be assessed in a wage assignment.
If you have been sent a notice of wage withholding, and think that you do not owe the money, do not disregard the notice. Stopping the assignment will require action from you, and getting the advice of a qualified and experience child support attorney familiar with California case law is often your best course of action.
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Seek the best legal representation available in Southern California. The Law Offices of Damian Nolan has offices in Los Angeles, Lakewood & Long Beach. We will protect your rights. We aim to provide honest, courteous and diligent representation while striving to keep your legal costs down, at the same timemaking the legal process as easy as possible on you.