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Ventura Divorce with Children Lawyer

The end of a marriage is never an easy matter, from an emotional or legal point of view.  With emotions running high and constantly changing, divorce can be a truly exhausting life experience.  Adding children to the equation can make the experience that much harder.  Now you’re not only dealing with the logistics of separation, property distribution and alimony, but child support and custody are thrown into the mix as well.

Divorce is a common all over the country and Ventura, California is no exception.  Ventura residents seeking a divorce with children often find themselves full of more questions and concerns than they can even articulate. Fortunately, the attorneys at The Law Offices of Bamieh & De Smeth, PLC can help answer all your important questions while upholding your rights, explaining your responsibilities, protecting your interests, and guiding you through the legal process for getting divorced with children in Ventura.  If you need assistance with any aspect of the divorce process, no matter how minor, turn to our efficient and personalized legal representation. For a free and completely confidential consultation regarding divorce proceedings or related matters, call (805) 585-5056.

Child Custody

One of the most important issues to any divorcing couple is the anxiety-provoking topic of “who gets the kids?”  Even for couples who divorce amicably, this topic can become rapidly heated and contentious.  A judge has an extensive list of factors to consider when determining how to divide custody and unlimited discretion with regard to how to weigh those factors.  It may be impossible to predict the results of your custody hearing, but having a handle on the terminology will prove to be helpful in these difficult conversations.

What’s the Difference Between Physical and Legal Custody?

Legal custody allows a parent the authority to make decisions on behalf of the child.  These include decisions about the child’s schooling, religious upbringing and medical care.  Physical custody refers to a parent that has the right to have a child live with him or her.  Both types of custody may be and often are shared by the parents.

If parents have joint legal custody, one parent cannot exclude the other from collaborating on the decision-making process. Failing to include the other parent may result in a court date.  For joint legal custody to be successful, the parents must have the ability to effectively communicate and come to an agreement about important matters in the child’s life.

Shared physical custody is simply an arrangement where the children spend a significant portion of time with each parent.  If this is not feasible geographically, or if one parent has been deemed unfit in some way, courts have the option to award sole legal or physical custody to one parent.

What’s the Difference Between Custody and Visitation Rights?

If a parent is deemed unfit or unwilling to share in legal or physical custody of the child, they can usually be granted visitation rights. Visitation rights allow the non-custodial parent (the person without child custody) a scheduled time to spend with their child. Child visitation schedules can be set either by the court or left to the parents to agree upon.  Generally, a parent with only visitation rights is not entitled to participate in making important decisions regarding the child.

How Does a Judge Determine Who Gets Custody in Ventura, CA?

There are many factors the California courts will consider when determining custody arrangements.  The ultimate standard which every issue arises out of is whether the arrangement is in the best interest of the child.  A judge deciding issues of family law has wide discretion about how heavily to weigh each of these factors.

Health and Safety of Child and Parents

A child’s health and safety is generally one of the most important factors in deciding what is in the best interest of the child.  Any prior bad acts by the parents, especially abuse or neglect of the child, will weigh heavily on a judge’s decision.  Additionally, the child’s relationship to each parent and the time available to each parent to be with the child will be considered.  If one parent is available to care for the child during the day and the other parent would be using a daycare center or babysitter, it is likely the available parent will be awarded more custody. A parent’s drug or alcohol use, caretaking capacities and the environment that they can create for the child are just some of many factors in play.

Child’s Preference

The child’s preference will also have some impact on the determination, on the condition that the child is of a mature enough age to make an intelligent choice regarding custody.  In California, a child age 14 or older is permitted to directly address the court regarding custody and visitation.

Co-Parenting Abilities

The ability of the parents to effectively communicate regarding their child is heavily considered as well.  Judges also tend to have an unfavorable view of any parent who actively interferes in the child’s relationship with the other parent.  Additionally, judges will place more favor on the parent they believe shows more willingness to keep the other parent involved in the child’s life and to facilitate the other parent’s access to the child.

Continuity and Stability

Continuity and stability are also considered to be in the best interest of the child.  For this reason, it is unlikely that a judge will agree to a custody plan that involves excessive transporting of the child to different homes during the week.  Judges generally feel that children thrive best on a routine and prefer to keep as much of the child’s life the same to the extent possible under the circumstances.  This includes maintaining established patterns of care and protecting emotional bonds with the parent who has served as primary caretaker.  In some cases, a judge will also attempt to keep siblings together.

Child Support

How Does the Court Determine Income in Order to Calculate Child Support?

In order to determine your child support payment, the court will determine your disposable income.  The court arrives at this number by starting with your gross income, subtracting any necessary deductions, and dividing by 12 to calculate a monthly payment.  For the purposes of child support, your gross income is made up of salary (including wages, bonuses, commissions, etc.), rental income, dividends, pensions, trust income, workers compensation, social security and any spousal support received from someone who is not the other parent in the child support action.  The court will deduct state and federal tax obligations, mandatory union dues, necessary job-related expenses, health insurance premiums, extraordinary healthy expenses, as well as basic living expenses for any children from other relationships.
Once your disposable income has been calculated, the court will determine your timeshare.  Timeshare is the amount of time each parent has primary responsibility for the children.  Most states calculate this by counting the number of times a child stays overnight with the parent, but Ventura residents getting divorced with children will use a different formula.  California calculates the number of hours per year a child is with a parent.  Factors like who takes the children to and from school, who attends school functions and how involved each parent is also contribute.

At this point, the court will plug all of these factors into a complicated mathematical formula to calculate child support.  Don’t worry if the number seems improper at first—the judge still has discretion to modify the amount in some circumstances.  If one parent’s income is especially low (typically a disposable income of less than $1,000), or if it would be in the best interest of the child, a judge may decide to differ from the calculated support guideline amount.

What if My Child’s Other Parent Doesn’t Work?

Even if your child’s other parent doesn’t work, a judge may decide to impute an income to them.  A parent who is choosing not to work without a valid reason may be subject to evaluation by a vocational expert.  This expert will analyze the parent’s education and experience in light of the current job market to compute an earning capacity.  If a judge finds that a parent has become unemployed for the sole purpose of avoiding child support payments, he will be even more likely to impute this income to the parent.

Modification of Child Support and Custody Orders

If you feel that your child support order or custody agreement is inaccurate or unfair, don’t panic—it can be modified.  You and your child’s other parent can work out a new agreement between yourselves, but remember that a judge still needs to sign off on it to make it legally enforceable.  Some states require that parents try to resolve the issue through mediation before bringing the case back into court. California courts suggest the use of mediator, but do not require it.

Generally, a substantial change in circumstances is required to request a modification of support or custody through the court system. Events like relocation, loss of employment, or a serious illness can typically satisfy this requirement.

Contact a Ventura Divorce with Children Lawyer Today

The decisions you make today can have an impact on the rest of your life.  Your financial future, your living situation and even your relationship with your kids can all be impacted.  When so much is at stake, it is absolutely essential to have an an experienced family law attorney with the compassion and knowledge it takes to handle your Ventura divorce with children.

If you are facing a custody battle, you don’t have to suffer the stress, anger, fear, and other negative consequences that can result.  Whether you are going through a divorce, attempting to gain custody, or arrive at a fair child support calculation, the Law Offices of Bamieh & De Smeth, PLC can help.  To schedule a free and confidential consultation with the experienced family law attorneys concerning your divorce or custody proceedings, contact our law offices right away at (805) 585-5056.

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