CHILD CUSTODY AND VISITATION
Mary Rafani-Steele of Visalia practices child custody law primarily in Tulare, Kings and Fresno counties in California. The information below applies only to these jurisdictions and is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.
The Court is substantially guided by the principle set forth by the California legislature, that it is in the minor(s)’ best interest to have frequent and continuing contact with both parents. This might, but does not necessarily, mean that parents shall share “50/50” custody. The court will look, first, at the status quo: what were the parties doing before they came to court. If they began residing in separate households before the hearing, the court will take a strong look at what informal arrangement(s) fell into place naturally upon separation. If the parties are still residing in the same household, the court will consider each party’s involvement in the day-to-day care of the minor(s) – usually based on the parties’ own declarations- to determine who the child(ren) are more likely to be bonded to. The court will also look at each parent’s work schedule in order to effectuate a time-share arrangement in which each parent is able to spend substantial quality time with the children.
Next, the court will consider any allegations of drug, alcohol or prescription drug abuse, or domestic violence, and whether the allegations are supported by corroborating evidence such as arrests, criminal convictions, declarations of eye-witnesses, police reports, and so on; if a parent does have one or more of these personal issues, the court will not deny him/her custody or visitation altogether except that, there is a California statute which provides that, if a parent has been found by the court to have perpetrated domestic violence against either the other parent, the child(ren) or the child(ren)’s siblings within the past five years, the court shall presume that granting sole or joint legal or physical custody to the perpetrating parent would be detrimental to the child(ren) (legal custody is the parent’s right to have a say in the education, health care, religion and other such matters regarding the child(ren). Physical custody is the parent’s right to have actual physical custodial time with the child) ; the parent who was found to be a perpetrator of domestic violence within the past five years has the burden to prove that it would not be detrimental for the child(ren) to grant him/her sole or joint legal or physical custody.
If one parent has made allegations of drug, alcohol or prescription drug abuse, or domestic violence against the other parent, the court will take a strong look at whether there is any corroborating evidence of the allegation. The court will also consider the level of dysfunction of the accused parent, in determining how to fashion a custody and visitation order which will balance the court’s interest in giving the child(ren) frequent and continuing contact with both parents while, at the same time, protecting the child(ren)’s health, safety and welfare. Supervised visitation, therapeutic visitation, day visits only, and other types of limiting orders can be imposed if the court believes it to be necessary or wise.
Fresno County, Kings County, Tulare County, especially Visalia, California, and Surrounding Areas