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Child Custody

Child custody is one of the most complex and emotionally-charged aspects of divorce proceedings in Lafayette, Moraga, Orinda, and Contra Costa County. This is largely due to the potential long-term ramifications stemming from a child custody order that sets forth whether a parent gets sole custody, or if there is a custody sharing agreement. 

Overview of Child Custody Guidelines in California

Basically, child custody sets forth the legal relationship between a parent and their child, or children. If you and your spouse are able to separate amicably, you have the option to draft and submit a parenting plan to the court that details the period of time you and the other parent will have custody of your child, or children. Nevertheless, the court will ultimately decide child custody issues based on what they consider is in the best interests of the child. 

Different Types of Child Custody in California

In California, there are two primary types of child custody: (i) physical custody and (ii) legal custody. Let's look at each.

Physical custody, as the name implies, focuses on where your child will reside (i.e., where they are physically located).  In contrast, legal custody refers to your legal authority as the parent of your child. Legal custody is important because it focuses on your ability to make certain key life decisions on your child's behalf. For example, when you have legal custody of your child, you are empowered to decide the types of medical treatment your child may receive, where your child may go to school, what religion your child will practice, and so forth.

Legal Effects of Substance Abuse on Child Custody in California

When parents decide to get divorced, the process can be stressful and emotionally charged, This sensitive matter becomes even more complicated when you, or your spouse, has a substance abuse issue. If you are struggling with an addiction to opioids, alcohol, or any other substance, it is important to understand the uphill battle you are likely to encounter when seeking custody over your child, or children, during a divorce.

Before delving into the impact that substance abuse can have on child custody, let's briefly address some core concepts and legal principles related to child custody in California.

How Courts Typically Determine Child Custody in California

Many judges prefer to divide child custody between the parents. Nevertheless, this is not the governing legal standard. Instead, California courts will determine child custody on what living arrangement would be in the best interests of your child, or children. To determine the “best interests” of your child, a California court will examine multiple issues, including:

-The bond you share with your child

-Where you reside and the proximity to your child

-Whether you are able to emotionally support your child

-Any special needs your child may have

-Any other factor the court deems relevant to your case

When it comes to the matter of child custody, California courts focus on the best interests of the child. That is the governing standard, and the court will examine various factors to ultimately determine what is in a child's best interests when it comes to custody. In California, a court is empowered to grant one of three types of child custody:

-Sole custody, which is where one parent always has the child, and the other parent gets visitation on a very limited basis or not at all.

-Primary custody, which is where one parent has the child most of the time and the other has regularly scheduled visits, such as on the weekends.

-Joint custody, which is where both parents share the child on an equal or almost-equal basis.

Impact of Substance Abuse on Child Custody

If your spouse alleges that you are struggling with substance abuse, you need to retain the services of an experienced divorce lawyer. Why? Because a divorce attorney will have the skill and ability to prove to a court that you either do not have such an issue with substance abuse, or that you are doing everything in your power to correct the issue, such as attending rehab or counseling.

Substance abuse issues can drastically affect the outcome of your custody agreement, which is why you cannot go it alone and try to obtain custody without the assistance of an experienced divorce attorney in San Francisco. Custody over your child is too important. You owe it to yourself to have a top-notch lawyer by your side who is focused on fighting for you.  

Impact of Mental Illness on Child Custody During a Divorce Proceeding

A divorce case involving a parent with a mental illness or psychological condition is inherently complex and will prove challenging. Why? Because the terms “mental illness” and “psychological condition” are quite broad and may include a parent who is depressed, a parent with anxiety, and/or a parent struggling with dissociative personality disorder, bipolar disorder, or another serious condition. As you can tell, the nature of each disorder is different, which typically means how a particular mental illness or condition will impact a particular child custody case varies and is unpredictable.

Impact of Mental Illness on Child Custody in California

When one parent suffers from a mental health issue, California courts typically assess the parent's ability to provide a safe environment for the child, or children. Depending on the specific mental illness or condition, there is a possibility it could impact both physical custody and legal custody, along with the right to make major, life-altering decisions for the child. Major decisions that could be impacted include the following:

-Health care decisions,

-Educational decisions, and/or

-Religious decisions.

If a California court determines that your condition means you are unfit or unable to make legal decisions, there is the risk that you could lose custody of your child. Similarly, a parent with a mental illness or condition that poses a risk to the health and safety of the child may not receive physical custody, or even visitation rights.

How California Law Treats Mental Illness in the Context of Child Custody

In California, it is important to understand that the mere existence of a mental illness does not, in and of itself, prohibit a parent from obtaining custody over their child. Rather, a California court will analyze the situation and the specific facts that are unique to your case. Ultimately, the court will make a decision that is predicated on the best interests of your child.

Of course, the severity of the mental illness could very well impact the court's decision, particularly if the condition is one that may pose a safety risk to the child.

On the other hand, if the parent is still fully functioning and able to care for the child, a California court retains the authority to award custody and/or visitation rights safely and competently.

Involved in a Custody Dispute in Lafayette, Orinda, Moraga, and Contra Costa County Where the Issue of Mental Health is Involved? 

If you have questions related to the laws and guidelines governing child custody in Lafayette, Orinda, Moraga, or anywhere in Contra Costa County, California, now is the time to contact The Geller Firm. Our team of experienced and respected Lafayette child support custody attorneys are here to help. We are in the San Francisco Bay Area and are proud to provide legal services in Lafayette and Contra Costa County, along with San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland, and Pleasanton. Our legal team is available for virtual and in-person consultations. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

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