Physical vs. Legal Custody: Understanding the Differences

As a parent going through a divorce, one of your top concerns will be establishing the best custody arrangement for your child. In order to do this, you need to understand the differences between physical and legal custody. It’s also important to understand the pros and cons of sole and joint custody. By understanding the differences of the custody choices, you can decide what you think would be best for your child.

Physical Custody

When you are awarded physical custody, it means that your child will get to reside with you part of the time and doesn’t necessarily mean that the time spent between both parents is 50/50. Although there are some cases where the parents share even amounts of physical custody, it’s also a possibility that one parent could be awarded a few days or several weekends a month, while the other parent has custody of the child for the rest of the time.

Legal Custody

A parent with legal custody is able to make legal decisions on behalf of his or her child. One prime example of this is if your child has a health issue and requires treatment. Any adult who does not have legal custody of the child would not legally be able to sign consent forms for treatment.

School permission slips are another instance where it might be helpful for both parents to have legal custody. It could be more convenient to share the legal responsibilities with your former spouse than to try to do it all yourself.

Sole Custody

A parent can have sole physical custody or sole legal custody of their child. If you believe the other parent might harm or flee with your child, sole custody is best. However, if your child is going to have a continued relationship with the other parent, you will want to give serious thought to your situation before asking for sole custody. In instances where both parents are going to be an active part of their child’s life, it is best to have joint custody.

Joint Custody

Joint custody means that both you and your former spouse have rights with your child. For example, joint physical custody means that your child will reside with both of you for a prearranged amount of time. Joint legal custody means that both parents can make legal decisions in the best interest of the child.

Need Help?

If you still can’t decide which form of custody is best for you and your child, let us help. At Fenchel Family Law, we are committed to helping you and your child get the best possible custody ruling. Our knowledgeable attorneys are available to answer your questions. Give us a call today at (415) 805-9069 or contact us online to learn how we can help you.

4 Tips for Being a Great Single Dad

Parents face a unique challenge after their divorce. Although they are no longer married to their former spouse, they must still co-parent with them. You two are different, yet you must unite and be on the same page when you’re raising your children. It’s very complex and can feel like a balancing act, but it can be done successfully. Here are four tips for being a great single dad.

  1. Don’t talk to your kids about your issues.

After your divorce, you may have a variety of feelings. Make sure that you don’t discuss that with your children. That is information best shared with your therapist or group, but your kids should not feel like they need to help shoulder your burden.

They will have their own post-divorce issues. While it is appropriate for you to encourage them to talk to you about their feelings, try your best not to commiserate too much. When your children share their emotions, make sure that you make that conversation all about them and leave your feelings out of it.

  1. Help your kids keep their routine when they’re with you.

Although it might be tempting to try to morph into “Fun Dad,” this will not benefit either you or your children. Instead, it will just make life (and your children) crazy and unpredictable.

What helps your children most during this difficult time is structure and stability. Do your very best to try to keep them on the same schedule they keep at their mom’s house. If they have a certain breakfast that they eat there, try to offer that when they’re with you.

In particular, you want to do your very best to keep the same bedtime routine. Learn what they do before bed, what time they go to bed, and what time they get up. Keeping this routine unaltered between households will be extremely helpful to your children.

  1. Don’t speak ill of their mother.

Yes, she is your ex-wife and you, undoubtedly, have strong feelings about her. However, you need to keep those to yourself when you’re around your kids. Remember, you and your former wife are still working as a parenting team. You wouldn’t want her speaking poorly of you to the kids, so you need to avoid speaking poorly about her to them.

When you and your former wife appear to be a united front, it will make both of your parenting experiences easier. In a situation like divorce where there is no easy button, take advantage of this tip in particular to make life easier.

  1. Be a dad.

You don’t need to try to be your kids’ buddy. Similarly, you don’t have to try to do everything exactly like their mom does. Your kids have friends, and they have a mom. It’s up to you to be the dad.

Dads are different from moms for a reason. The combination of both parents brings happiness and balance to kids. It allows them to do different activities and experience different perspectives.

Don’t undervalue your role as a dad. Embrace your personality and what makes you different from your ex-wife. Although you want to maintain stability for your children, don’t be afraid to inject your personality and do things your way.

Maintaining Your Fathers’ Rights

If you think that your rights as a father are being violated, contact Fenchel Family Law. We are adamant that fathers deserve to have the same rights as mothers. Our qualified attorneys can help you get the visitation rights that you deserve. Give us a call today at (415) 805-9069 or contact us online to find out how we can help.

Emergency Custody Explained

Most parents will do whatever it takes to ensure the safety of their child. For parents who believe that their child may be in danger, this can include filing for emergency custody. Here’s more information about emergency custody and how to file for it.

What Is Emergency Custody?

Although the state of California firmly believes that it benefits the child to have a continuous relationship with both parents, there are instances when that may not be in the child’s best interest. If you believe that your child is in danger, you can file for emergency custody.

Some examples of when you should file are if you suspect your:

    • former spouse is transferring anger or aggression to your child,
    • child might be at risk of observing or being a victim of domestic violence,
    • former spouse refuses to provide consent for your child to receive urgent medical treatment,
    • child might be at risk of observing or receiving abuse, or
    • former spouse may take your child and leave.

Should I Have a Lawyer?

If you want to file for emergency custody, you should absolutely have a lawyer. It is technically possible for non-legal people to file the required paperwork. However, because of the importance of the situation and necessary timeliness of paper filing, it is best to have a professional file your request for you.

How to File for Emergency Custody

When you decide that you want to file for emergency custody, contact your lawyer. Normally, the attorney who helped you with your divorce can also help you file your paperwork in this situation. It is particularly important for you to contact your attorney if you believe your child is in immediate danger. This way, your lawyer might be able to file your paperwork without giving any sort of notice to your former spouse.

After You File

After you file for emergency custody, the papers must be served to the other parent. Some attorneys will do this for you, or you may want to enlist the help of a professional process server. Once the papers have been delivered, the case will go to court where a judge will decide whether emergency custody should be granted.

Get Help

You want to ensure the safety of your child, but it’s more challenging when you’re co-parenting with a former spouse, especially one that may provide an unsafe environment. If you feel this way, Fenchel Family Law can help. We can help you file the necessary paperwork to help ensure your child’s safety. Give us a call at (415) 805-9069 or contact us online to learn how we can help.

Three Essential Freedom-Focused Steps to Overcoming Your Failed Marriage

All of my clients are planning for, going through, or dealing with the aftermath of a failed marriage.  And, there is one unifying problem that continues to hold them back from handling their divorce and moving on with their lives.

Here it is: Analysis Paralysis.

This is that inner narrative that we subscribe to that glues us to our current station in life.  It is the story we tell ourselves about change leading us to that which we fear most. It is our active and imaginative inner dialogue that keeps us put. It is our inner critic, the nagging voice in our heads that overanalyzes everything to the point of paralyzing ourselves from taking action and moving forward with what we know we must do.

When men and women become stuck in unhealthy family dynamics, analysis paralysis can keep them there.  They spin their wheels on these narratives of worst case scenarios and constantly talk themselves out of living the lives they deserve.

As long as you allow your inner voice to keep you glued to your failed marriage, you are unable to take care of that one person that you must have and hold until death do you part:  You.

The only way to overcome analysis paralysis is by finding somebody that will support you while also holding you accountable to making choices that will be in your own best interest. When you are in a tough spot, you require somebody with the critical skill-set to compliment your existing support system of friends and family:  Your family law attorney.

I practice family law because I am passionate about empowering my clients to navigate divorce towards a better future.

At Fenchel Family Law, we take in our clients’ narratives and the weight of their tough family situations. We apply their facts to California law and collaborate on a  plan to move their lives forward in a positive and productive manner.

We are there for our clients every step of the way: the bad times and the absolutely worst times.  We comfort our clients, nag our clients, fiercely defend our clients, cry with our clients, whip our clients into shape, and always root for our clients.  (You need an attorney that is going to tell it to you like it is and not always tell you what you want to hear.) At times, we add humor and comforting visuals to push our clients forward.  I am always working on ways to provide our clients with the support and empowerment they need.

All along the way, I observe our clients’  analysis paralysis set in. The “but I can’t”, the “but what if” and the “but you just don’t understand.”

When my clients balk and try to go back on the action plan that we crafted together, they start making excuses for why they can’t hold themselves accountable to set a boundary with their spouse to get to the next step:

  • “I am unable to go to therapy tomorrow because I am too busy with work.”

  • “I cannot tell my husband that I want a divorce.  He will get too mad, and when he gets mad, it is very scary.”

  • “I don’t want to file the paperwork to protect my kids because it will make my wife mad and she will take it out on the kids.”

I promise you, there are an infinite amount of stories that you can tell yourself to prevent yourself from taking that next step to start living the life you deserve.  Our brains play jedi mind tricks on us every day to manipulate us into standing still and even backtracking every time we almost convince ourselves to take an inch of progress.

So, how do we conquer our own analysis paralysis?  How do I empower my clients to divorce and take control over their lives?

I ask them the hard questions, which forces them to recognize the power of living their lives for themselves and their future.  And, as we step forward down the path together, hand in hand, I constantly remind them how far they have come. When they create roadblocks of excuses, we go over the path to relief that California law provides, and we go over the plan we have crafted to get them through it.

Many men and women are stuck in failed marriages.  Some are able to quiet their paralyzing narratives and successfully get out of these marriages with the help of a good family law attorney, powerful therapist, and  strong support network. Some are not because they allow themselves to become paralyzed by their overanalyzed inner critic. It is as simple as that.

At the end of the day, you are not a victim of your circumstances.  If you don’t like the situation you are in, you have the power to change it .

Every day in life we make choices:

  • Press snooze, or wake up at 6 am and go for a run.

  • Dedicate an hour of our day to self-improvement, or stay at work an extra hour to get one more task off our plate.

  • Stay put in a failed marriage, or meet with a family law attorney to create a plan to break the cycle and start living the life we deserve.

The more you choose to invest in yourself, the more you train your mindset to focus forward on the light at the end of the tunnel, rather than the fear holding you back from moving on.

My clients have already decided to hire Fenchel Family Law and are already on the path.  My team will be with them every step of the way, guiding them toward the future that they deserve.  But the key is to silence that pesky analysis paralysis. We all have sob stories. We all have narratives we tell ourselves to justify why certain parts of our lives suck, and why it is not our fault.  How long are we going to let those voices get in our way? What would your life look like next week, if you started making choices to put yourself first today? What could it look like next month? What should it look like five years from now?

If you, or a loved one is stuck in a failed marriage, here are three steps to start conquering that analysis paralysis:

1. Give yourself some credit.

We are all too hard on ourselves.  We constantly berate ourselves for not being good enough.  It leads us to convince ourselves to stay put. We convince ourselves that we do not deserve to be treated with respect, that we would never find a life partner that would treat us better than the one we have, and that being alone is simply not an option.  STOP THINKING THIS WAY. You are good enough and you do deserve to be treated with respect.

If you are unable to give yourself some credit and recognize that you deserve more, please immediately set up an appointment with a therapist.  Do not wait. Do this today. Right now. Every single day you wait, you become more stuck to the status quo. Your life is passing you by due to your own inaction.

2. Calendar at least one hour of your day to self-care.

This hour can be in the form of therapy, yoga, or even reading at your favorite park.  The more time you start taking for yourself, the more you can actively change your mindset to focus on meeting your own personal needs.   While divorce may be the only outcome that will lead you to the life you deserve, the only way to truly achieve that life in the long-term is by learning how to care for that one person that is always going to be by your side no matter what.  Yup, you got it: You.

3. Make an appointment with a family law attorney to help you craft a plan to live the life that you deserve.

The right family law attorney will start holding you accountable to make the changes required to handle your divorce and move on.  She will sit with you, take in your entire tale of woe, and answer all the questions that are swirling in your head – all the what if’s and but’s that are preventing you from making progress toward having the life that you deserve.

She will also go over what you can expect your life to look like in the coming years.  This will include going over your marital finances so that you have a clear understanding as to what you can expect to pay/be paid in support, and planning out your financial future together.   This will help you visualize where you will live (staying in the family residence or moving out and securing a new home), and a budget for food, clothes, and other monthly expenses.

She will go over with you what assets will likely remain yours, and what assets will likely be deemed community assets and be equally divided by agreement or a court order.  She will walk you through the California laws that she will use to secure payment of your attorneys’ fees from your spouse if your spouse makes a lot more money than you. If you make a lot more money than your spouse, she will go over the California laws that may protect you from paying fees if your spouse behaves unreasonably and frustrates settlement.

By the end of the meeting, you will have an action plan with clear deadlines.  Your family law attorney will hold you accountable to the timeline of the action plan.  She will give you the legal services to assist you in accessing the financial resources you require to start living the life you deserve.  If you have children, she will assist you in crafting a parenting plan, which provides for your children’s best interests.

You may be pushing back in your head and convincing yourself that you do not need a family law attorney because your friends and family members are there for you.  If they truly have your best interests at heart, they will be crucial for you to have as emotional support throughout this transition. But often times the advice that they give is not based on fact or law,but rather their own fears and analysis paralysis.

I know it is easier said than done, but I challenge you to stop justifying staying in a bad marriage by repeating these narratives, and instead make that appointment with a family law attorney and seek that advice from the only person that you are literally paying to tell you exactly like it is and help you navigate your way to the life that you deserve.  If you need help finding a family law attorney, please call Fenchel Family Law. If we speak on the phone and determine that we are not a good fit for you, we are always willing to provide you with referrals of other family law attorneys that may be a better fit for your case.

Please give us a call so that we can help you.

California Custody: The Primary Factors That Determine the Best Interests of the Child

When parents divorce, the judge must take into account the child’s best interests when determining custody arrangements. It’s completely at the judge’s discretion to weigh the facts of the case and determine what will be best for the child. However, the judge must follow certain guidelines. Here’s more about what constitutes “the child’s best interests” and how child custody is determined in California.

“The Child’s Best Interests”

Although this phrase may sound very vague, it actually means something quite specific to judges. In California, the child’s best interests include:

  1. the health, safety, and welfare of the child; and
  2. the idea that the child will benefit from having a continued relationship with both parents.

When judges decide on a child custody arrangement, they consider these two items primarily. Then, they look at other factors to guide them to make their ruling.

Health, Safety, and Welfare of the Child

When the judge is assessing the health, safety, and welfare of the child, he or she is trying to keep the child from unsafe situations. Some situations where a judge might decide a parent is unsafe are if a parent has been accused of:

  • drug or alcohol abuse,
  • physical or sexual abuse (of an adult or child),
  • child endangerment, or
  • murder or another dangerous act

Even if you have been accused of any of these above listed activities, it is still possible for you to have a relationship with your child. Depending on what you have been accused of, you might be able to plead your case by writing a declaration to the judge explaining your situation.

Continued Relationship with Both Parents

One of the judge’s main goals in determining child custody is for the child to have a continued relationship with both parents. This means that when the judge is deciding custody, a preference might be given toward a parent who has a better attitude. The judge wants to find someone who will continue to encourage the child to spend time with the other parent. Similarly, the judge wants to reward parents who show a willingness to positively co-parent.

Other Factors

There are other factors that do end up influencing the judge’s final custody decision. For example, if you have an older, mature child, the judge might ask your child if he or she has a preference for living with one parent over the other. Also, the judge will do the best job to minimize the changes in your child’s life from your divorce. This can mean preference for the parent who is the primary caregiver.

Let Fenchel Family Law Help

If you are contemplating a divorce or need help modifying your child custody arrangement, Fenchel Family Law can assist you. We know that your child is important to you, and we’re committed to helping you get the custody arrangement you deserve. Give us a call today at (415) 805-9069 or contact us online.

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