Kevin Qualls Family Law
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Orange County Family Law Blog

Options for enforcing parenting time in California

Despite the warnings about how important it is for parents to get along with each other when it comes to parenting time, for many reasons, sometimes this is a challenge for Orange County, California, couples.

In some cases, one parent, usually the one who has the children most of the time, may use his or her power to keep the children away from the other parent, even though the other parent has court-ordered or even agreed upon visitation.

What are the goals of a child custody mediation?

As this blog has discussed on previous occasions, one option for resolving a child custody dispute is for the parents to go to mediation. Basically, a mediator will work with each parent and others in order to help the parents come to some resolution with respect to their custody and parenting time disputes.

In some California courts, the mediator, who may be known by a slightly different title, is also allowed to make a recommendation about custody and parenting time when mediation fails. Especially if an Orange County resident is being ordered to mediate, it is important for that person to remember what the goals of a custody or parenting time mediation are, as it is otherwise easy to get lost in the legal and emotional details surrounding mediation.

What is a "QDRO" in a divorce?

Previous posts on this blog have talked about how retirement plans get divided in the event of a divorce or separation. Indeed, retirement plans are a very important part of the overall property division process, as a couple's assets are often heavily tied up in their retirement plans. Like other assets, the general rule is that retirement plans get divided in a divorce.

Getting one's retirement plan divided up, however, is only one step in the process of actually getting their share of the money. This is because a California court's order is only binding on the couple. A separate court order, directed to either party's retirement plan, is required before one can get the funds to which they are entitled.

Are you allowed to bargain away child support by agreement?

As in the case of other family law matters, it may behoove Orange County, California, parents to come to an agreement as to how much child support one parent will pay to another. Reaching a negotiated agreement can help both parents feel that the support payment is fair, and it may, as a result, make it more likely that the parent who is paying support will do so willingly even in the long term.

While parents have considerable leeway when it comes to negotiating child support agreements between them, it is important for them to bear some principles in mind.

Review of joint custody in California

This blog has mentioned the concept of joint custody before, but it may be helpful for Orange County parents to have a refresher on exactly what "joint custody" means, as the term can sometimes be used in different ways. A true joint custody arrangement implies that parents will split the time they have with their children 50-50 insofar as possible. A perfectly even split may not, however, be practical due to parents' work schedules and other reasons.

Joint custody in this sense could mean children move between their parents' homes on a weekly or even daily basis. Other alternative arrangements are also possible for carrying out a true joint custody plan, and couples may want to and even need to get creative in order to do so.

What should be include in a visitation plan?

Instead of taking every parenting issue back to court, many separated parents in Orange County, California, choose to instead make a detailed visitation plan. This is also be referred to as a "parenting plan," or, more formally, a "custody and visitation agreement."

These plans are helpful because they detail what both the parents and children can expect, who will make decisions and what the children's daily lives will look like, with respect to each parent. This gives a sense of stability to the children, which in turn, helps them with their overall mental health and outlook on life.

Review of state parental relocation rules

Although this blog has discussed this topic in past months, it may be helpful, particularly with the summer moving season coming up soon, to review what a single parent's obligations are when they have to move. These obligations are particularly important when a parent wants to move either out of state or to another part of California some distance from Orange County.

Unlike other states which have somewhat restrictive parental relocation laws, California gives parents fairly broad leeway to move. If, for instance, the parent who wants to move has sole custody, then, unless the divorce decree or paternity order says otherwise, he or she may move with the child. The other parent's options would be to seek a change of custody or attempt to stop the move if they can argue the move will hurt the child in some way.

Child support for special needs children

Many residents of Orange County, California, have children with special needs. Whether stemming from a learning disability, a medical problem or some other unique issue, a child with special needs often requires extra medical care and educational help. This in turn will often mean parents must pay additional costs on behalf of their child.

When parents are separated, these additional costs may have to be dealt with by way of a child support order. Like other states, however, California has set guidelines that its courts are expected to follow when it comes to ordering child support. Generally speaking, these guidelines call for a formulaic approach that heavily weighs each parent's income in a child support calculation.

Grandparents' rights to court-ordered visits in California

As is the case in other states, grandparents in California have certain rights under the law that may allow them to have court-ordered visits with their grandchildren. These rights can be important for all grandparents who have and want to keep meaningful relationships with their grandkids, and they are especially important when a grandparent has historically had a role in providing his or her grandchild with care and support.

With respect to getting visitation, courts give a lot of deference to the wishes of the child's parents, especially when the parents are married. However, under certain circumstances, grandparents can request visitation, even if the child's parents remain legally married.

When are supervised visits an option?

Despite the fact that many California residents recognize the benefits of having both parents involved in their children's lives, in many cases, this is unfortunately not the best child custody option for families. For instance, in some cases, abuse between the parents or even between parent and child may make unrestricted visits a terrible idea for lots of reasons. In other cases, even if a parent is not abusive, things like drug use, untreated mental illnesses, absence or other factors may make parenting time a challenge that must be addressed with the utmost care and concern for the feelings and well-being of the children involved.

In California, judges have the authority to order a parent to have only supervised visits with their children in limited circumstances. Generally speaking, this authority exists when evidence suggests that supervised visits are necessary to protect the physical or emotional safety of the children.

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