Rob: Hello everyone we are here with Rand Pinsky who is a Santa Clarita divorce and family law attorney. Hello Rand.
Rand Pinsky: Hello Rob.
Rob: Rand, today in this particular video segment we want to talk about the issue of child custody and child visitations. Which I understand can be a very contentious issue between parents.
Rand Pinsky: I would say that child custody and visitation is probably the number one item that we discuss with our clients throughout the entire divorce process.
Rob: Now what if the parents can't agree on the custody and the visitation issue?
Rand Pinsky: Well the courts have set up a very complex process. Very comprehensive to take care of situations where the mother and the father can not agree upon a custody arrangement or what's called a, "parenting plan."
Rob: Okay can you walk us through that process?
Rand Pinsky: Well sure. The first thing that happens is this. It's determined that mom and dad can not come up with an agreement as to how custody should be shared among the parties. The courts are concerned of what is in the best interest of the minor child. So the first thing that we do once an agreement can not be paid are that the parties are ordered to go to custody mediation. This is a process where mom and dad are ordered to go to a trained therapist. A court employee who will work with mom and dad and try to come up with a parenting plan. In Los Angeles you are required to go to this custody mediation but you are not required to actually come up with an agreement.
Rob: Now is this what you call a conciliation court order or is that something different?
Rand Pinsky: No this is a conciliation court. Because you don't use the word conciliation cause sometimes clients think that conciliation means you're trying to get the parties back together as husband and wife. So I like to use the term, custody mediation.
Rob: So to understand this the court is ordering the parents to go and try to work this out; work out the issues with a mediator of some sort.
Rand Pinsky: Yes with a trained professional.
Rob: Okay now what is the judges role in all of this?
Rand Pinsky: Well as I explained if the parties can not reach an agreement or a parenting plan through the custody mediation now you go to a judge. And the judge has many options available to him. The first thing the judge can do is he can appoint what's called minor's counsel. Minor's counsel is an attorney that will represent the interest of the children. The attorney will speak to mom and dad. Will speak to the child. And then at some future court hearing make a recommendation to the court as to what they think is best for their client.
Rob: What is this parenting plan assessment? What is that?
Rand Pinsky: A parenting plan assessment is another tool that the court uses to try to determine what's in the best interest of the minor child. So here the parties go to a similar person like the custody mediator. But here they spend one or two full days talking with the mediator, bringing in some collateral sources, and this parenting plan assessment officer will make a determination what he thinks is best for the minor child then will go to court on an afternoon. The evaluator will make a recommendation to the judge and the attorneys and the clients have an opportunity to question or support the findings of this individual.
If that doesn't work or if the court doesn't want to use a parenting plan assessment then they have another option of appointing what's called an outside child evaluation study. Now this can become very expensive. It's very complex. The outside expert will spend three to four months interviewing, testing the parties, talking to collateral sources and then will come up with about a 60 page report as to what they think is in the best interest of the minor child. The cost of this can from anywhere from $6,000 on up. So if the parties can not work out an agreement they're looking at some very hefty costs.
Rob: So it sounds like it would be in the best interest of the parents to try to work something out short of that.
Rand Pinsky: It would be in the best interest of the children and the parents to work something out.
Rob: Now I understand there are two different types of custody. Can you shed some light on that.
Rand Pinsky: There are two types of custody. You will have what's called legal custody and we have physical custody. Legal custody and that's usually joint meaning both mom and dad have equal say so's in the upbringing of the children; religion, education, driver's license, passports, sometimes even tattoos.
Rob: Oh boy. Let's not get into that. How about that?
Rand Pinsky: Oh and then you have physical custody. Physical custody that's where's the child going to be spending the majority of their time. We talked a little bit about that earlier as I talked about the process of custody mediation, minor's counsel, these types of things. So that's what physical custody is.
Rob: Now here's an issue that sometimes comes up. People ask, "Does my child have any say in the matter?"
Rand Pinsky: A child can have a say but it's very, very limited. Over the last 5 or 6 years there's been a law passed that will allow a 14-year-old child to have some input into the custody agreement as long as certain perimeters are met. So yes a 14-year-old or older can have a say so, but it's not an automatic thing.
Rob: Well I want to thank you Rand for spending some time with us today. Child custody and child visitation can be a very thorny subject I would imagine.
Rand Pinsky: Very much so. And very emotional.
Rob: Very emotional and I would imagine that having a lawyer who's been down the river so to speak would be a good thing to have.
Rand Pinsky: Absolutely. Thank you Rob.
Rob: And you serve the entire Santa Clarita Valley correct?
Rand Pinsky: Yes I do.
Rob: You live here as a matter of fact?
Rand Pinsky: I do live in Santa Clarita. I've had my practice here for probably 15 of the 40 years I've been practicing law.
Rob: So if somebody wanted to get in touch with you how do they go about doing that?
Rand Pinsky: The easiest way is go to my website, RandPinsky.com or please call me (661)295-4644.
Rob: Once again Rand thank you very much for the time you spent with us today.
Rand Pinsky: Thank you Rob.
If you need help with your Santa Clarita divorce or child custody matter, call Rand at 661-295-4644 to set up a consultation.