Child custody is a term used to describe the legal relationship between a parent and a child, not simply where they live. In California, most parents agree to some type of joint custody, sharing rights and responsibilities, but the details are often hotly contested. In some cases one or both parents are unfit or abusive and custody is requested by grandparents or other family members. Child custody can impact the financial obligations for child support, so parents sometimes want to claim to do more in order to pay less. Child custody battles are hard on children, so arriving at an amicable agreement should always be the goal. Envision Family Law Group can guide you through the process with integrity.

What Is Legal Child Custody?

Legal child custody refers to the legal rights of a parent to make decisions for their children. There are two major types of child custody in the state of California: joint custody and sole custody. Joint custody is when parents share the responsibility of making decisions for their children and sole custody is when only one parent has that legal right. These are some examples of the types of choices and decisions that parents with legal custody make:

  • Child care (nanny, day care, parent at home);
  • School (public, private, religious, vocational, college);
  • Mental Health (therapy, in patient treatment, medication);
  • Doctors, Dentists and Orthodontists;
  • Extra-curricular Activities (sports, dance, art, chess):
  • Travel and
  • Where the child lives.

Parents with joint custody may not always agree on what’s best for their children, so some settlement agreements will allow the parent that spends more time with the children final say in a dispute or require visits with a parenting coordinator to mediate a resolution.

What Is Physical Child Custody?

Physical child custody is where the child lives most of the time, and the other parent is entitled to visits. Joint physical custody where children divide their time equally between two residences is becoming more popular. This can be accomplished in many ways such as switching homes every week, every month or on another schedule. In some cases children live 4 days a week with one parent and 3 days with the other because joint physical custody doesn’t need to be divided exactly 50/50.

The Best Interests Of The Child

If parents can’t agree about custody, a judge will decide what’s in the best interests of the child. To make this determination, the judge will examine the following factors:

  • Child’s desires, given more weight as the child gets older;
  • Record of domestic violence;
  • Record of drug use;
  • Record of alcohol abuse and
  • Parents’ emotional and mental stability.

California law supports the right of children to have time with both parents as long as they are properly cared for. It’s unlikely that physical custody will be given to a parent with a history of drug abuse, alcohol abuse or domestic violence, but it might be possible for that parent to participate in decisions about extra-curricular activities and other aspects of a child’s life.

California Child Custody Attorney

Settling child custody issues quickly and amicably is always best for the children. That’s why it’s important to hire a California child custody attorney with the skills and experience to negotiate an appropriate solution. Envision Family Law, LLP is committed to helping you develop the best child custody agreement whenever possible, and to litigate child custody issues effectively when that becomes necessary.