Family Law

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Family Law

Experienced Legal Representation & Advice You Can Rely On

At Szeto-Wong Law, our family law services in California are designed to provide support and guidance to families facing legal issues. Our services cover a wide range of legal matters, including divorce, child custody, child support, surrogacy, and paternity. The Szeto-Wong family law attorneys have a deep understanding of California’s laws and we’ll work diligently to protect the rights and interests of our clients by providing valuable legal advice and representation to help families navigate through difficult and emotional situations. With our knowledge and experience, family law services from Szeto-Wong Law in California are designed to achieve the best possible outcomes for our clients.

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Divorce

Divorce legal services are essential for couples going through the complicated and emotional process of dissolving a marriage. Our services specialize in helping couples navigate the legal aspects of divorce, such as division of assets, child custody, and spousal support, and our attorneys provide guidance and support to clients by advocating for their rights and interests throughout the process. We have a deep understanding of divorce laws and work diligently to find amicable solutions to help couples reach a fair resolution. Related divorce law cases and issues our team is experienced in handling include:

  • Alimony

  • Alimony Modification

  • Domestic Partnership

  • Domestic Violence and Divorce

  • Equitable Division

  • Failure to Pay Alimony

  • Fault Divorce

  • Gray Divorce

  • High-Asset Divorce

  • Legal Separation

  • LGBTQ Divorce

  • No-Fault Divorce

  • Postnuptial Agreement

  • Prenuptial Agreement

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Child Custody & Support

Child custody and support services assist families dealing with the emotional and complex process of determining the care and financial support of their children. Our services specialize in helping families navigate through disputes, establish custody agreements, and enforce support orders. Our child custody and support attorneys work closely with clients to protect the interests and well-being of the child or children involved while also providing valuable guidance and representation to help find a fair and amicable resolution.

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Paternity

Paternity legal services are important for establishing the legal rights and responsibilities of fathers. These services assist both mothers and potential fathers in determining and proving paternity and can help establish child support and custody agreements, as well as parental rights and obligations. Our paternity attorneys also play a crucial role in protecting the rights of fathers who may have been falsely accused of paternity. They work diligently to ensure that children have the financial and emotional support they need from both parents.

Best Interest of Child

Best Interest of Child legal cases focus on the well-being and needs of children in legal cases involving families. These services work to protect the physical, emotional, and financial interests of children, regardless of which parent they are living with. They advocate for the child's rights and strive to find solutions that prioritize their best interests. Our attorneys often work closely with social workers and other professionals to gather information and make recommendations to the court. These services are essential in making sure that children's needs are met and their voices are heard in legal proceedings involving their family.

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Parenting Plans

Parenting plans are detailed and comprehensive agreements that outline the rights and responsibilities of each parent regarding their child's care and upbringing. Parenting plan services from our attorneys assist parents in creating a plan that is in the best interest of the child, taking into account the child's needs and the parents' abilities and schedules. These services also help parents navigate any disputes or changes that may arise in the future regarding the parenting plan. They play a crucial role in promoting effective co-parenting and ensuring the well-being of the child.

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Other Family Law Services We Offer:

At Szeto-Wong Law, our team is dedicated to helping our clients and their families work through all kinds of different legal issues, whether they’re common cases or unique. While we specialize in divorce, child custody & support, and other similar practice areas, our dedicated team has experience with a wide range of cases and is happy to discuss your unique situation during a consultation. Other family law services our team offers include surrogacy and UCCJEA.

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This section helps you understand some legal words that are used in family court to describe the sharing of parenting responsibilities. For example, you will often hear the words “custody” and “visitation” being used in separation and divorce cases. “Child custody” refers to the rights and responsibilities between parents for taking care of their children. In your case, you will need to decide on custody. You also need to decide on “visitation,” which means how each parent will spend time with the children.

In California, either parent can have custody of the children, or the parents can share custody. The judge makes the final decision about custody and visitation but usually will approve the arrangement (the parenting plan) that both parents agree on. If the parents cannot agree, the judge will make a decision at a court hearing. The judge will usually not make a decision about custody and visitation until after the parents have met with a mediator from Family Court Services.

Types of custody orders

There are two kinds of child custody:

  • Legal custody, which means who makes important decisions for your children (like health care, education, and welfare), and
  • Physical custody, which means who your children live with.

Legal custody can be:

  • Joint, where both parents share the right and responsibility to make the important decisions about the health, education, and welfare of the children.

OR

  • Sole, where only 1 parent has the right and responsibility to make the important decisions about the health, education, and welfare of the children.
  • Parents with legal custody make decisions or choices about their children's:School or child care
  • Religious activities or institutions
  • Psychiatric, psychological, or other mental health counseling or therapy needs
  • Doctor, dentist, orthodontist, or other health professional (except in emergency situations)
  • Sports, summer camp, vacation, or extracurricular activities
  • Travel
  • Residence (where the children will live)

Parents who share legal custody both have the right to make decisions about these aspects of their children's lives, but they do not have to agree on every decision. Either parent can make a decision alone. But to avoid having problems and ending up back in court, both parents should communicate with each other and cooperate in making decisions together.

Physical custody can be:

  • Joint, which means that the children live with both parents.
  • Sole or primary, which means the children live with 1 parent most of the time and usually visit the other parent.

Joint physical custody does not mean that the children must spend exactly half the time with each parent. Usually the children spend a little more time with 1 parent than the other because it is too hard to split the time exactly in half. When 1 parent has the children more than half of the time, then that parent is sometimes called the “primary custodial parent.”

Sometimes, a judge gives parents joint legal custody, but not joint physical custody. This means that both parents share the responsibility for making important decisions in the children's lives, but the children live with 1 parent most of the time. The parent who does not have physical custody usually has visitation with the children.

Types of visitation orders

Visitation (also called “time-share”) is the plan for how the parents will share time with the children. A parent who has the children less than half of the time has visitation with the children. Visitation orders are varied, depending on the best interests of the children, the situation of the parents, and other factors. In general, visitation can be:

  • Visitation according to a schedule: Generally, it helps the parents and children to have detailed visitation plans to prevent conflicts and confusion, so parents and courts often come up with a visitation schedule detailing the dates and times that the children will be with each parent. Visitation schedules can include holidays, special occasions (like birthdays, mother's day, father's day, and other important dates for the family), and vacations.
  • Reasonable visitation: A reasonable visitation order does not necessarily have details as to when the children will be with each parent. Usually, these orders are open-ended and allow the parents to work it out between them. This type of visitation plan can work if parents get along very well and can be flexible and communicate well with one another. But if there are ever disagreements or misunderstandings, this kind of an open schedule can cause issues between the parents, and the children may suffer as a result.
  • Supervised visitation: This is used when the children's safety and well-being require that visits with the other parent be supervised by you, another adult, or a professional agency. Click for more information on supervised visitation. Supervised visitation is sometimes also used in cases where a child and a parent need time to become more familiar with each other, like if a parent has not seen the child in a long time and they need to slowly get to know each other again.
  • No visitation: This option is used when visiting with the parent, even with supervision, would be physically or emotionally harmful to the children. In these cases, it is not in the best interest of the children for the parent to have any contact with the children.

The law on deciding custody and visitation

The law says that judges must give custody according to what is in the “best interest of the child.” To decide what is best for a child, the court will consider:

  • The age of the child,
  • The health of the child,
  • The emotional ties between the parents and the child,
  • The ability of the parents to care for the child,
  • Any history of family violence or substance abuse, and
  • The child's ties to school, home, and his or her community.

Courts do not automatically give custody to the mother or the father, no matter what the age or sex of your children. Courts cannot deny your right to custody or visitation just because you were never married to the other parent, or because you or the other parent has a physical disability or a different lifestyle, religious belief, or sexual orientation.

In addition to custody orders, the judge will probably also make child support orders. Keep in mind that a child support order is separate from child custody and visitation, so you cannot refuse to let the other parent see the children just because he or she is not making the child support payments that the court ordered. And you cannot refuse to pay child support just because the other parent is not letting you see your children. But child support and custody are related because the amount of time each parent spends with the children will affect the amount of child support. Click to read more about child support.

Sometimes, if giving custody to either parent would harm the children, courts give custody to someone other than the parents because it is in the best interest of the children. Usually this is called “guardianship,” where someone who is not the parent asks for custody of the children because the parents cannot care for them. Click for more information on guardianship.

Ways to get a custody and visitation court order

In most cases, parents can make their own agreements for custody and visitation, without a court order. If you make an agreement between the 2 of you, the agreement becomes binding and enforceable. But if 1 of you does not follow the agreement, a court cannot enforce it until it becomes a court order. So if you and the other parent agree on custody and want a court order that either of you can enforce if 1 of you violates the agreement, you can turn in your agreement to a judge. The judge will probably approve the agreement, sign it, and it will become a court order. After the judge signs your agreement, file it with the court clerk. Click for more information on writing up a custody and visitation agreement or parenting plan.

If you cannot agree, the judge will send you to mediation and a mediator from Family Court Services or another court-related program will help you. If you still cannot agree, you and the other parent will meet with the judge. Generally, the judge will then decide your custody and visitation schedule. Learn more about mediation of custody cases.

In some cases, the judge may appoint a child custody evaluator to do a custody evaluation and recommend a parenting plan. A parent can also ask for an evaluation, but the request may not be granted. Parents may have to pay for an evaluation.

The judge also may appoint lawyers for children in custody cases. The judge will also decide who will pay for the children's lawyer's fees.

After a judge makes a custody or visitation order, 1 or both parents may want to change the order. Usually, the judge will approve a new custody and visitation order that both parents agree to. If the parents cannot agree on a change, 1 parent can ask the court for a change. That parent will probably have to complete certain forms to ask for a court hearing and prove to the judge that there is a significant change in circumstances (for example, the children would be harmed unless the order is changed) or other good reason to change the order. Both parents will most likely have to meet with a mediator to talk about why the court order needs to be changed.

To get an overview of the child custody and visitation process, read the Child Custody Information Sheet (Form FL-314-INFO). This information sheet is also available in Spanish, Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese.

Contested custody or visitation cases, where the parents cannot agree, are complicated. Talk with a lawyers at Szeto-Wong Law to understand how the law affects you and your rights.

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Contact Us Today to Schedule a Consultation

At Szeto-Wong Law, our team is dedicated to helping our clients and their families work through all kinds of different legal issues, whether they’re common cases or unique. While we specialize in divorce, child custody & support, and other similar practice areas, our dedicated team has experience with a wide range of cases and is happy to discuss your unique situation during a consultation. Other family law services our team offers include surrogacy and UCCJEA.

Contact our team online today to learn more about our family law services and to get started with a consultation about your case.

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