Children, the Focus of Mediation
Your children are of greatest concern during a separation. There are always so many unanswered questions. How will we share custody?
Where will we live? How will I pay for their needs and expenses. And most importantly, how will they adjust? There may be guilt that you are "hurting the kids" by separating.
Mediation offers an opportunity to work constructively with your spouse or former partner toward a stable, calm and nurturing transition for your child. There will be discussions concerning recent research on child and family development and adjustment. You'll establish time-sharing arrangements that are unique to your family and that enable you to care for your children and free you to work effectively.
Through this process you'll establish guidelines for healthy growth and positive cooperation and communication. Your co-parenting skills will be enhanced leading to your ability to share joyous moments together with your children.
California Custody Law
California recognizes two somewhat different types of custody: legal and physical. First, there is legal custody which concerns the health, education and welfare of the children. There may be either sole or joint legal custody. Custody confers the right to make decisions and have access to information, such as medical or educational records. The status during the marriage is that both parents have legal custody and have the ability to make decisions for their children such as treatment of illnesses, choice of care providers and educational choices such as schools, curriculum, involvement in sports and other after school activities. The great majority of parents retain joint legal custody after separation.
Physical custody concerns the right to determine the child's residence. Once again custody may be sole or joint. In sole custody the concept is of one primary residence, that of the custodial parent. The other, the non-custodial parent, is awarded visitation. Joint custody infers residency with each parent. As having custody effects where the children will live, the right to physical custody may give rise to legal disputes.
Often parents confuse physical custody with time sharing arrangements. The actual time a parent shares with the children is not predicated on physical custody. My experience with two couples underscores this difference. Consider a parent, a pilot who visited the Bay Area but once a month but was a joint custodian. Compare this to two parents who lived across a park from each other and each shared 50% of the time with the children. Yet, one parent had sole custody the other visitation.
Custody and time share are always subject to modification until each child is an adult. All such arrangements may be modified by agreement or court order.