Child Custody in the State of California
In California, either parent can have custody of the children or parents can share custody. The judge will take into consideration and will generally approve a Parenting Plan that both parents have previously agreed upon. When the parents cannot reach their own agreement, the judge assigned to your case will make the final determination as to custody and visitation. The Court must make the determination based on a number of factors, with a focus on what is in the best interest of the children, taking into account their health, safety, and welfare. This determination is done from the view of the child.
Custody is more than deciding on where a minor child is going to live. Physical custody pertains to where the children will live, while legal custody decides who will be able to make any and all legal decisions on behalf of a minor child. Both physical and legal custody can be granted to one parent or can be granted to both parents jointly.
Many Factors Go into a Judge's Decision Regarding Child Custody
If the parents cannot agree on an arrangement, the family court judge will make a decision at a court hearing.
The factors that a judge will take into consideration in determining which schedule is in the children’s best interest include:
Which parent is more likely to allow the children frequent and continuing access to the other parent
The importance of stability and continuity in the child’s life
The children’s attachment to each parent
Addressing concerns related to any history of domestic violence/abuse
Addressing concerns related to alcohol or drug abuse
Addressing concerns regarding personality or behavioral traits that could have an impact on the children
A consideration of the quality of care of the child by each parent
The preference of the children if they are of sufficient age or maturity
Other specific factors that are brought to the Court’s attention as relevant to the child’s best interest
There are two types of custody that must be determined: Legal Custody and Physical Custody.
Legal Custody determines who the decision-maker is for important decisions such as Health Care, Education, and General Welfare.
Legal Custody can be either Joint Custody or Sole Custody.
With Joint Legal Custody, both parents share the right and responsibility to make important decisions for the children. Sole Legal Custody is when only one of the parents has the ability to make important decisions for the children.
Parents with Legal Custody can make decisions regarding:
The Child's education, School, or child care
Religious activities or institutions
Psychiatric, psychological, or other mental health counseling or therapy needs
Doctor, dentist, orthodontist, or other health professionals (except in emergency situations)
Sports, summer camp, vacation, or extracurricular activities
When parents have joint custody, each parent has the right to make decisions. This does not mean that every decision has to be agreed upon, but with Joint Legal Custody, communication, cooperation, and compromise are important factors.
Physical Custody determines where the children will physically live. One parent can have sole physical custody or both parents can share joint physical custody.
Joint Physical Custody means the children split their time between both parents and are physically living in both locations. Sole, or Primary Physical Custody means that the children live with and spend the bulk of their time with one parent and may visit the other parent, but they legally do not live with the parent they are visiting, even if visits are regular and frequent.
Joint Physical Custody does not assume that the kids will split their time 50/50 with each parent, with logistics such as school, work, babysitting, and other events, such as after-school activities, it is normal that children may spend more time with one parent. The parent who has the children for more than half of the time may be called the Primary Custodial Parent, but that does not diminish the rights of the other parent.
Even with joint physical custody, one parent may be obligated to pay child support to the parent with whom the children live for the majority of the time.
Legal and Physical Custody Are Decided Separately
There are times where Legal Custody and Physical Custody may be ruled upon differently. Parents may have joint legal custody, but only one parent is granted Physical Custody with the other parent being granted visitation rights with a set visitation schedule.
Contact the Law Office of Tracy Duell-Cazes
At the Law Office of Tracy Duell-Cazes, or TDC Family Law, we work with our clients to work through all the concerns and considerations as it pertains to Child Custody. We assist our clients in creating a Parenting Plan that is acceptable to all parties, and we will also work hard to protect the rights of our clients as well as the children.
Contact TDC Family Law for all your Child Custody or Visitation issues.