This is the next post in our series on the rights unmarried parents in Orange County, California. Our last article discussed protecting the rights of an unmarried California father. It is important to understand that the rights of a father are considered equal to those of a mother if paternity is already established. In this post we will discuss the process of establishing an initial custody order as well as the importance of making sure a formal custody arrangement is in place. If you are unmarried and separated from the other parent of your child then contact our office today to schedule an initial consultation with an attorney.
Unmarried California parents can establish child custody through the filing of a Petition
The first step in a child custody case, assuming that paternity is already established, is to file a Petition with the Court. This is a formal document in which the requesting parent will state what they believe the custody arrangement should be and the amount of child support which should be paid. A hearing will often be held shortly after the Petition has been filed. The initial hearing will be for the purpose of putting a temporary arrangement in place regarding custody, support, visitation, etc. Having this temporary arrangement in place while the case proceeds helps to reduce potential conflict between the parties and also gives each parent a sense of structure. Each parent will then begin accumulating evidence supporting why they should receive the custody arrangement they are requesting. If a settlement cannot be reached then the matter will be resolved at a trial before the Judge.
At the initial Court hearing the Judge will base his or her decision on what is in the best interests of the child or children. This determination will be made based on the oral arguments of your attorney and documented evidence which counsel presents to the Court. This is not a stage of the case where witnesses will testify. The initial Court appearance will be relatively short. It is important to understand that the order issued at this hearing is only temporary; you may be awarded the level of custody you are requesting at trial even if the Judge does not grant it initially. We will discuss the process of building a case for custody, and attending trial, in our coming posts.
Unmarried Orange County parents should establish a child custody arrangement as soon as possible
It is strongly suggested that parents who are unmarried and separated obtain a child custody order as soon as possible. To not do so is to simply invite problems at some point in the future. Quite often parents who find themselves in such a situation do not feel the need to obtain a Court order. They believe that because they are amicable with the other parent, and because the situation is working out, that there is no need to involve the Court. The problem, however, is that most people are not able to get along with an ex long term. Should the situation sour between you and the other parent then you will have no structure in place stating who has the child during which times, who is responsible for support, and more. This can create a time of intense conflict which will go unresolved until you get to Court.
If you and your ex are getting along fine and are happy with the arrangement you have then it is possible to memorialize that arrangement in a Court order. Such an order will give each parent protection in the event there is conflict in the future. Our Orange County child custody attorneys are able to assist with doing so. If matters are not amicable between you and your ex then we are able to assist you in getting to Court as soon as possible. Contact our office today to speak with a lawyer.
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