How to determine visitation and child support when one parent relocates?

My domestic partner and I have decided to get a divorce. We have a 13 month old together; I was the birth parent. We chose to work opposite schedules so that he could stay out of day care. She watches him at my house. I pay for absolutely everything with him. Then she told me that she is moving in 3 weeks 2 hours away. She told me that she was going to take him 3 days a week and she reluctantly said she would help with child care but no more than $200 a month. I now do not have a baby sitter and am forced to put him in day care. This is not what is best for our son. What are my rights? If I go to court, is there a chance he could get taken from me and things could backfire?

Asked on September 6, 2012 under Family Law, California

Answers:

Cameron Norris, Esq. / Law Office of Gary W. Norris

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

First of all, your request for custody and the dissolution of your registered domestic partnership can be completed in one case together.  Keep in mind that if you are registered domestic partners, then half your wages are community property until the date of separation, half your debt during the partnership is community debt, separate property brought into the partnership remains separate property, and each of you have equal right to the management and control of community property.

Second, with young children (like 13 month olds) there is an unwritten rule that it is in the best interests of the child to be with the birth mother the majority of the time.  So, your chances of having joint custody, but a larger share of the custodial time is very real.  That said, there is a presumption in California law that parents have a right to move away with their children.  See Family Code 7501; IRMO Lamusga (2004) 32 Cal.4th 1072.  The court would weigh the detriment one way against the detriment the other way.  A custodial arrangement where the child travels back and forth is feasible but is hard on such a young child.  You will go to required mediation and if you don't reach an agreement, the recommendation of the mediator will be presented to the court along with your testimony and any legal arguments.

Third, if you were registered domestic partners, you owe one another spousal support just like hetero married couples.  I am not sure if there is a discrepacny in income between you and your partner, but one of you is most likely going to have to pay support.  If it is requested by one of you, first there will be a temporary support amount during the pendency of the proceedings--followed by a permananent amount determined at trial by a judge.  The temporary amount is determined by the same computer program that calculates child support.

Fourth, depending on the custodial arrangement, one of you may owe the other child support.  The more custodial time you get, the less child support you pay.

I think you can see that you are about to jump into some fairly contentious and complicated matters.  It is possible that you two can come to an agreement on all of these items, but either way you should really hire an attorney.  Most divorce attorneys would be able to help you out--because the law governing domestic partnerships largely mirrors the law for hetero spouses.

If you are in the Los Angeles or Ventura County Areas, feel free to contact me.

Best of luck.


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