Charles E. Weber
The children of the relationship are most important to the Court, as they should be to each party and their counsel. All custody adjudications are subject to statutory standards related to the child’s best interests, with primary concern being the child’s health, education and welfare; and further, so long as consistent with the safety of the child and the family, to assure the child frequent and continuing contact with both parents. With joint legal custody, each party participates in the major decisions affecting the child, i.e. health, education and welfare. With joint physical custody, a 50%/50% timeshare is not necessary. Rather, the child is spending a substantial period of time with each parent. Structuring of an appropriate parenting plan can be extremely difficult, particularly when emotions are running high. Considerable time often is spent on trying to work out a parenting plan, rather than having the result dictated by the hearing judge. Although the parties marriage has failed, they remain the parents of their children and their responsibilities continue. Common sense suggests that a reasonable parenting plan, developed with the assistance of counsel and/or through mediation, take into account numerous factors, including, without limitation: the child’s schedule; other considerations of particular importance, i.e. extracurricular activities, sports, lessons, hobbies or other interests that may be better accommodated by one parent; each parent’s schedule; proximity between each parent’s residence and transferring issues; emotional bonds existing between parent and child; primary caretaker; status quo – child’s need for stability and continuity; living environment; proximity to school/friends; child’s emotional makeup; the child’s expressed desires – subject to consideration of age, maturity and perhaps influence by the other parent; continuing contact with each parent; and, overall, the best interests of the child. Sometimes, it may be deemed necessary to have a custody/visitation workup done by an expert, i.e. psychiatrist. Appointed by the court under Evidence Code Section 730, such an expert is a neutral and the court’s expert. Although not determinative, the report by such expert constitutes evidence for the court’s consideration and which the court determines the relevance and weight of same in its overall deliberation.
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