the most important decition.

How do I get custody of my child in Sonoma County? 

In order to obtain custody of your child, you will want to file a petition with the court asking the court to review your case. The courts will give you two dates. One is for Family Court Services, the second is for a court hearing.

Family Court Services (Mediation) is for both parents to attend so that a mediator and determine whether you can come to a custodial agreement. If you are able to reach an agreement, or not, the mediator will generally send a recommendation for the Judge’s review. This will inform the Judge was happened at Mediation and can assist the Judge when determining your case. It is important to be ready for Mediation and to have all necessary documentation and declarations filed with the court so that the Mediator knows your side of the story. Our Sonoma County based Family Law lawyers at Conway Law are more than happy to help you with these documents.

You will then have your court date. Depending on what happened at mediation, the Judge will make a determination in your case. It is important to have a lawyer as the mediation may not always go in your favor. This is when is important to argue your side of the case so that the Judge’s decision is more favorable for you. If you would like to go over your case and to hear what the possible outcomes may be, contact Conway Law, a Sonoma County based law firm.


How does a parent get full custody of her child?

There was a time when the U.S. legal system presumed that children belonged with their mothers and favored mothers in custody disputes. Today, the law generally presumes it is in the children’s best interests to be raised by both parents, and states increasingly favor agreements in which mothers and fathers share custody. To obtain full custody of a child, a parent must demonstrate that either the other parent is unfit to have the child or a different custody arrangement would negatively affect them.


What do the courts look at when determining custody of a child? 

In determining child custody cases, the courts use what is called the “best interest” of the child standard. It is called the child’s “best interest”. It is the single most important factor in every single child custody case. It is vague and broad but you better know its application if you intend to have any degree of success in your child custody case.

That word “discretion” is very important. We call it the big “D” because it gives the Family Court reasonable latitude such that there is often not a strict right or wrong decision unless the judge abuses his or her discretion when making a ruling.This court discretion when assessing the child’s best interest is also what makes child custody decisions difficult to successfully appeal. When an appellate court takes a look at a judge’s decision on what facts he or she gave less or more consideration, they generally have to find (with some exceptions of course) that the judge abused his or her discretion when evaluating and weighing the facts.


How does joint legal and physical custody affect child support?
Joint custody doesn’t negate a child support obligation. Even if both parents share custody on an equal basis, one parent will inevitably owe some amount in child support. Unless of course both parents earn exactly the same income and spend exactly the same amount of time with the children, which is highly unlikely.

The reason why there still is a child support obligation even when custody is shared equally, is because our child support guidelines calculate the obligation based on time spent with each parent and the income of each parent. So even if the child spends equal time with each parent, the parent with the higher income will owe child support.

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