Los Angeles Child Custody Attorney
Los Angeles Child Custody Attorney
Top Child Custody Attorney: Stephen L. Cawelti
If you are going through a divorce or splitting up, child custody is one of the most important matters to resolve. You need an experienced child custody lawyer who is committed to protecting your parental rights and ensuring that your child’s best interest is kept as the top priority.
At the Law Offices of Stephen L. Cawelti, we understand it is often a child’s best interest for the parents to come to an amicable agreement concerning visitation/child custody whenever possible. Our law firm has a high success rate of resolving even the most troublesome disputes and helping our clients arrive at fair and workable agreements. When disputes cannot be resolved through negotiation, however, we are fully prepared to aggressively advocate for our clients’ interests in court.
Child custody attorney Stephen Cawelti specializes in complex child custody cases and has helped hundreds of individuals protect their parental rights. Voted as one of the top divorce lawyers in Los Angeles by Pasadena Magazine, Stephen Cawelti is prepared to give your case the attention it deserves.
Our office services Burbank, Glendale, Pasadena, Los Feliz & the greater Los Angeles area. We would be honored to represent and protect your family.
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The Best Interest of the Child Is Always the Top Priority
When it comes to resolving a child custody dispute, court is not your only option. Our firm has a high success rate of resolving even the most troubling child custody cases and helping parents guard their parental rights outside of court. As your custody attorney, Stephen will help you to craft a child custody agreement that works best for the child and the family.
The Child Custody Process
The first step when going through a divorce or break-up with children is to create a child custody and visitation schedule. This schedule must be signed by a judge to be legally enforceable. If parents can come to an amicable agreement, they can submit that schedule to the judge without a court hearing. Nine times out of ten, these submissions are signed by the judge. As such, it is critical that the agreement you submit protects your current and future interests. Los Angeles child custody lawyer Stephen Cawelti specializes in child custody mediation and preparing legally binding, detailed child custody agreements that protect your interests while also solidifying the terms of the agreement.
If an agreement cannot be reached, the next step will be for both parties to litigate in court and have the judge make the final decision. Our law firm has a high success rate of resolving even the most troublesome disputes and helping our clients arrive at fair and workable agreements. When disputes cannot be resolved through negotiation, however, we are fully prepared to aggressively advocate for our clients’ interests in court.
Factors When Determining Custody
Several factors are considered by the California courts when determining the rights of custody of a minor.
Child Custody California Court Factors
1. The health, safety, and welfare of the child must be the court’s primary concern.
2. When possible, it is important for the court to ensure that children have frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents have separated and to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities of child rearing (except when contact would not be in the best interest of the child).
3. Children have the right to be safe and free from abuse. The perpetration of child abuse or domestic violence in a household where a child resides is detrimental to the health, safety, and welfare of the child and will be taken seriously in court.
It is important that you have a highly experienced child custody attorney in Los Angeles who not only gives you sound advice and representation, but can also guide you through the nuances of the relevant California laws and family court procedures. Los Angeles child custody lawyer Stephen Cawelti has acted as the lead attorney on hundreds of divorce/child custody cases in Los Angeles and has been voted by Pasadena Magazine as one of the top attorneys in the area for six years in a row.
Types of Custody
There are two types of child custody, physical and legal.
Physical custody refers to who the child lives with. Physical custody can be:
- Joint: The child lives with both parents (this does not necessarily mean that time is split exactly in half)
- Sole or Primary: The child lives with one parent for the majority of the time and usually visits with the other parent.
Legal custody refers to who makes important decision for your child (like health care, education, and welfare). Legal custody can be:
- Joint: The parents share the right to make decisions about the health, education, and welfare of the child.
- Sole: One parent has the right to make decisions about the health, education, and welfare of the child.
Frequently Asked Child Custody Questions
Are child custody cases separate from divorce?
Establishing both legal and physical custody is a part of the divorce process if there children under 18. Sometimes however, child custody battles can drag out. In this case, short term custody can be awarded and the divorce can be finalized while long term custody rights are fought for.
Parentage cases are where the parents were never married. In that case, the issues are mostly limited to child custody and child support, and sometimes attorney’s fees.
How long do child custody cases take?
The duration of a child custody case depends on multiple factors. When both parents are committed to the best interest of the child and are willing to compromise, the case wraps up quickly. If parents cannot agree and need to go to court to resolve their case, or if mental health professionals need to get involved, it can take much longer.
Is child custody mediation mandatory in California?
Under California Family Code 3170 & 3175, prior to any child custody litigation, parents must attend mediation. If the dispute is still unable to be resolved after the mandatory mediation session, the issue will be heard in court.
Is child custody mediation legally binding?
No child custody arrangement is legally binding until the judge signs off (even if you do not go to court). 9 out of ten child custody arrangements created in mediation will be signed off on by a judge. A family law attorney who specializes in mediation will be able to help to ensure that the agreement is legally sound and will be accepted by the judge.
Can child custody cases be appealed?
Yes, if you do not agree with the child custody decision you can file an appeal. It is important to note that filing an appeal is not the same as a retrial. In your appeal, your attorney will detail what the judge got wrong. If the higher court agrees with your appeal, they can order a retrial or even render a new decision.
Are child custody records available to the public?
Unless the judge orders your case to be sealed, all court records are available to the public. A judge will only order the records to be sealed if there are privacy or safety concerns. Special procedural rules also apply.
Are child custody hearings public?
While the courtroom is typically open to the public, a typical family law court setting is small and intimate (not like what you see on tv). If a child is expected to testify (a rare occurrence), the courtroom will probably be cleared to provide privacy for the child.
Should I talk to my child about who she/he wants to live with?
This depends on the age of the child and the situation (if your divorce is amicable or if you are in the middle of a custody battle). If your child is old enough and you and your partner are committed to coparenting, consider allowing your kid to voice their input in regards to the schedule. Preface the conversation by telling them that while ultimately you and your ex will have to come to an agreement about what is best for them, you want to hear their input. While you may not be able to accommodate all of their wishes, allowing them to weigh in helps them to feel seen and heard.
Do grandparents have any custody/visitation rights?
In California, grandparents can petition the court for reasonable visitation or custody rights. Grandparents cannot petition for visitation while the parents are still married, although there are many exceptions to this law (drug abuse, parents living separately…)
What if I want to move with my child?
The laws on these types of situations are complex and ever changing. If you are planning to move with your child, it is important to consult a family law attorney to understand how the law applies to your specific circumstance.
Stephen L. Cawelti
Stephen is a board certified divorce attorney who has specialized in complex family law matters since 2006 in California. His extensive educational background in child development and psychology uniquely qualify him to help parents navigate through the stress of child custody matters. Stephen has acted as the lead attorney on hundreds of divorce/child custody cases and argued before the Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura County Superior Courts. He was voted by Pasadena Magazine as one of the “Top Family Law Attorneys” in the area for 7 years in a row and named a “Rising Star” by SuperLawyers.
Serving Burbank, Glendale, Pasadena & the Greater Los Angeles Area