Mission Viejo Child Custody Lawyer

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Mission Viejo Child Custody Attorney

A child custody case can be one of the most difficult experiences of any parent’s life. If you are a parent in Mission Viejo and planning to divorce your co-parent, or if you are unmarried and no longer wish to raise your children as a couple, you must prepare to go to court to have a child custody order created. This custody agreement is a legally enforceable court order that stipulates the parental rights and responsibilities of a child’s parents, ensuring both parents are held accountable for the care and support of their child.

Experienced Legal Counsel for Child Custody Determinations in Mission Viejo, CA

It can feel disempowering to realize that the final terms and conditions of a child custody order will rest entirely in the hands of the judge overseeing the case. Whether you are facing a custody determination as part of a larger divorce case or a standalone custody case as an unmarried parent, it is vital to know what to expect in this process and how to make the strongest possible case for the custody rights you hope to obtain.

The team at Cianci Law, PC has extensive professional experience handling all types of family law cases, including difficult custody agreements. Attorney Melissa Cianci is a certified family law specialist who has helped many past clients navigate the most challenging custody cases in the Mission Viejo area, and our firm is ready to provide the guidance and support you need for this incredibly difficult series of legal proceedings.

Benefits of Legal Representation in Your Custody Dispute

While it is technically possible to enter family court for a custody determination without legal representation, this is inadvisable for many reasons. First, a custody case is inherently emotionally taxing for any parent. The stress of the situation can prevent a parent from making sound decisions or could cause them to miss filing deadlines or make other mistakes that complicate their position. Second, the average person may think they know how to convey their case for custody on their own, but a seasoned Mission Viejo child custody attorney can assist them in demonstrating their capability as a parent as clearly as possible before a family court judge.

When you choose Cianci Law, PC to represent you, our team will carefully review the details of your situation, listen closely to your needs and concerns about your custody case, and help determine what type of custody arrangement would be most suitable for your children’s interests. We can also provide the legal representation you may need for any related legal issues in the Mission Viejo family court, such as related divorce proceedings, child support determination, and more.

How Does the Family Court Decide Child Custody?

Parents bracing for custody determinations in Mission Viejo must understand how the court decides custody. The main determining factor in every child custody dispute is the interests of the child that a custody order will affect. Custody determinations always unfold before family court judges. The judge overseeing your custody case will carefully examine evidence and documentation presented by you and your child’s other parent as well as various other factors to help inform their decision. A few of the factors that the judge in your custody case is likely to consider include:

  • The health and medical status of each parent. A judge will want to see that a parent seeking custody is physically and medically able to handle their child’s everyday needs. Parents with substance abuse disorders or advanced physical disabilities are unlikely to be awarded much in the way of custody rights.
  • The income and work schedule of each parent. A custodial parent must be able to manage their child’s daily schedule. Parents who are required to travel extensively for work or work odd hours will have difficulty managing the average child’s daily schedule. Parents are also required to contribute financially to raising their children.
  • Each parent’s criminal record. If a parent has any type of criminal record this will work against them in a custody case. This is especially true if a parent has any history of child abuse of any kind, domestic violence, drug-related offenses, or felony convictions.
  • Each parent’s living space. A custodial parent who intends to claim physical custody must have a safe and clean space for their child to live comfortably. If married parents are divorcing and one is keeping their marital home, this may work in their favor with respect to a physical custody determination, as a judge will want the children to remain in their familiar home if possible.
  • The overall fitness of each parent to handle parental responsibility and their bond with their child. A judge will want to hear from each parent about their parenting philosophy, goals for their children, how they intend to handle their desired custody arrangement, and their level of personal connection with their child.
  • The preferences of the child. If the child at the center of a custody dispute is able to convey their preferences, the judge will want to hear from them. Judges tend to take the preferences of the child very seriously in a custody case.

Every custody case filed in Mission Viejo is entirely unique, so there is no single strategy that will work for every parent seeking custody rights. When you choose Cianci Law, PC to represent you, we can carefully review the details that are most likely to come into play as the judge decides custody. Our goal is to help you approach the determination with confidence and peace of mind,

Elements of a Custody Determination

Any child custody determination will involve two types of custody. Legal custody refers to a parent’s ability to make important decisions on behalf of their child. Physical custody applies to residency, or where the children will spend their time. The judge overseeing the case will typically determine legal custody first, deciding whether one or both parents are capable of handling major decisions for their children. It’s common for child custody orders to include evenly split legal custody with an imbalanced split of physical custody.

A parent can qualify for physical custody as long as they can prove they are capable of making important decisions on their child’s behalf concerning medical care, education, spiritual upbringing, and more. Judges will look at a parent’s criminal history, overall health and fitness, and their bond with their child to inform this aspect of their decision. Physical custody determination is a more practical decision that pertains to more objective facts.

Physical custody determinations will result in a custody schedule for custodial parents. Most physical custody arrangements entail joint custody in which each parent will spend some time with their children on a regular basis. Judges prefer to set physical custody rules that disrupt a child’s life as minimally as possible, meaning they will not want to force them to move back and forth between their parents’ residences multiple times a week if possible.

If the parents live close to one another and both are considered fit and capable of handling their parental responsibilities, the judge overseeing their case will likely aim for the most even split of physical custody possible. Some joint custody arrangements involve one parent having their children every other week, alternating with the other parent, and other custody orders may involve mid-week transfers of custody. It is also possible for custody to be split seasonally or in larger chunks of time if the parents’ schedules require such an arrangement.

How to Modify Your Custody Order in Mission Viejo

It is crucial for parents to follow their custody orders to the letter. Any willful violation of a custody order carries severe repercussions, potentially including loss of custody rights and criminal penalties. When emergencies and other unexpected schedule conflicts arise, parents should communicate these issues and try to work out solutions that are mutually acceptable. If a major life change has rendered your standing custody order untenable, it is possible to request a modification to your order.

The modification process is relatively straightforward, and a seasoned Mission Viejo child custody attorney can help their client approach this process with confidence. If you must propose a modification to your custody order, you need to submit your proposed change to the court, and then a hearing will be scheduled. The other parent will have the chance to respond to your proposal, and ultimately, the judge overseeing the hearing will have the final say when it comes to approving or denying the proposed change.

What to Expect From Your Mission Viejo Child Custody Attorney

Ultimately, a child custody case can be one of the most challenging experiences of any parent’s life, and there is no single strategy that will work for every case. The team at Cianci Law, PC takes a client-focused approach to every custody case we represent in Mission Viejo. While no attorney can ever promise any client a specific outcome to their case, we can ensure that you will have access to the full extent of our professional resources and experience through every step of your case and that you will have a responsive legal advocate ready to answer questions and offer valuable guidance as the case unfolds. Contact Cianci Law, PC today to schedule your consultation with a Mission Viejo child custody attorney and learn how we can help with your impending case.

Practice Areas



Child Custody& Support



Family Law

Family Law



Estate Planning

Pre and Postnuptial Agreement


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