Ongoing child custody cases are incredibly difficult times for the parents and their children. When the parents cannot agree on a parenting plan for family, they are faced with having the Court impose custody and visitation orders, after the parents have attended a mandatory Child Custody Counseling appointment with at Family Court Services. In many counties in California, including Contra Costa and Alameda Counties, the Child Custody Recommending Counselor will make a recommendation for a parenting plan to the court, which can be adopted as the Court’s order, if the parents cannot work out a plan of their own. Legal advice on preparing for, and attending, the Child Custody Counseling appointment is crucial for the parents to understand and navigate the family court system in California.
There are also times when grandparents have the desire to apply to the court for grandparent visitation, and they will be required to attend a Child Custody Counseling appointment, prior to seeing the judge. (This is distinguished from the situation where a grandparent decides to apply for legal guardianship, because neither parent is able to care for their children. These cases are handled by the probate court, and not the family court.)
The parents are also free to decide how much child support can be paid to the parent with less income and/or the majority of the timeshare with the children. However, if the parents cannot reach an agreement, the court will dictate the amount of child support based on a statewide guideline, determined by a computer program. The supported parent has the option of opening a case with the Department of Child Support Services, which department can assist with collection and enforcement of child support orders.
The amount of child support ordered is rarely enough for the supported parent to be comfortable, and is quite often an amount that is a hardship to the supporting parent. When two incomes supported the intact family, splitting those incomes between two new households nearly always will stretch both parents’ household budgets.