Understanding Your Custody Options in California

For many families, creating a suitable custody schedule is one of the top priorities when it is clear that separation or divorce is necessary. California awards legal and physical custody to parents, allowing parents to create a parenting plan that suits their children’s needs.

Legal Custody Options

Legal custody refers to the right that each parent has to make decisions about their children’s care. Parents with legal custody rights can decide where a child resides or goes to school, a child’s religious upbringing, where and when a child receives medical care, and when a child may travel out of the state or country. Depending on the preferences of the parents and their ability to provide care for their children, judges may award sole or joint legal custody.

  • Sole legal custody: Sole legal custody is not the default choice in California. For one parent to receive sole legal custody, there must be evidence that the other parent is unfit to make decisions in their child’s best interests. The court may look at how well the parents work together to make decisions for their child, how much each parent knows about the child’s needs, and what would be in the child’s best interests.
  • Joint legal custody: Joint legal custody is the more common setup in California. If both parents are involved in a child’s life and fit to make appropriate decisions for the child, they both have a say in how the child is raised.

Types of Physical Custody

Physical custody is what most people think of when they think about custody and visitation plans. A physical custody arrangement determines where children spend their time, who provides their care, and where they live. Ideally, a child should spend meaningful amounts of time with both parents. The court typically believes that it is in the child’s best interests to have strong relationships with both parents. However, there are some cases that require a different type of custody schedule.

  • Sole physical custody: If one parent is awarded sole physical custody, the children live primarily with that parent and may have visitation with the other parent. For example, a child may live with one parent the majority of the time but spend every weekend or every other weekend with the other parent. This arrangement may be suitable if one parent has a more flexible work schedule than the other, if one parent does not want equal parenting time, or if the parents live in different counties or states. Sole custody with supervised or no visitation may be awarded if one parent has a history of abuse, drug usage, or other conditions that make them unfit for parenting.
  • Joint physical custody: Joint custody is typically the preferred parenting plan in California since it allows both parents to have equal parenting time. This puts children in a position to build meaningful relationships with both caretakers. In a joint custody agreement, parents have equal or nearly equal parenting time with their children.

As a parent going through separation or divorce, you may worry about your rights to see your children or what custody rights you may have. The first step is reaching out to an experienced family law attorney in your area. Contact KL Family Law to start working towards a parenting plan that is in your family’s best interests.

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KL Family Law

At KL Family Law, we understand that your primary concern is the well-being of your children. We strive to offer tailored solutions for your family law needs and help you move forward through this difficult transition.

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