Last post, we established that when considering
custody of your children, there are two important concepts to understand: Legal
Custody and Physical Custody.
parties come to an
agreement on custody, the agreement may be submitted to the
court. If the court approves the agreement, the
parenting schedule becomes a binding court order. The agreement can be modified
by either party if there has been a substantial change of circumstance,
for instance if a parent moves or a child changes schools. It is not uncommon
for parties to make alterations to the custody schedule after their case
concludes, as facts and circumstances always change. These agreements
or adjustments to the schedule should always be memorialized in the form
of a written agreement and submitted to the court.
If parties to a dissolution action cannot agree as to custody, the analysis
becomes more difficult. The court generally looks for input from a third
party before it will render a decision as to custody. Mediation in contested
custody cases is always required in Orange County, and is offered as a
free service to litigants. If mediation fails, the court can appoint an
evaluator to meet with members of the family and render an opinion as
to custody. This can be a very costly and time-consuming process, but
the approved evaluators in the County do a spectacular job. The court
has a list of approved evaluators available on its website.
Though not every case can be resolved short of trial, settlement on custody
issues is quite common. No one generally likes the idea of a court making
a decision as to family structure and parenting time, but the court will
certainly make a decision when pressed. The court's focus is always
on the best interests of the children, and in most cases, that focus is
shared by the parents.