For a long time, and even still today, in some ways, men have struggled with the child custody system. There are societal and social reasons for that, but a father should not be at a disadvantage when it comes to custody proceedings. Here’s what dads should know:

There are two types of custody

Most people think of custody as one thing; either you have it or don’t. The reality is more complicated and can allow for more flexibility.

Physical custody is about where the child lives

When a parent has physical custody of the child, the child lives with them, and they are responsible for day-to-day needs. It also can shift depending on the custody agreement. Joint physical custody means both parents, at different times, have physical custody.

Legal custody is about the decisions of the child

California typically prefers a joint legal custody situation, regardless of where the child lives most of the time. In this arrangement, both parents have an equal say in the necessary decisions about how the child should live, from educational choices to medical care.

You can have joint custody and visitation

Many people believe that visitation does not exist when you have joint custody. However, California looks at things a little differently. Many joint custody arrangements are – strictly in terms of time – unequal. The children may be with one parent for 55% of the time. In situations like this, the time spent with the parent that has less custody time is visitation.

Additionally, when joint custody is not a possibility, typically, one of the parents is given visitation rights. Visitation rights have some variability, but it does allow the non-custodial parent to build a relationship with their kids.

Scheduled visitation means holding to a specific plan

A scheduled visitation plan requires the court to iron out a specific schedule for the parents to follow. It’s Saturdays all day or some other schedule. It’s holidays or vacations. These visits can include overnights.

Reasonable visitation does not come with a schedule

For parents with a less contentious relationship, a reasonable visitation schedule is one with fewer rules and restrictions. It allows for flexibility, but if issues between co-parents arise, its lack of structure can be difficult.

Some visitation agreements require supervision

If there are significant issues between the parents and worries about abuse, often the court will order supervised visitation for the non-custodial parent.

Not every parent gets to see their kids

In some extreme cases, visitation is not allowed. This is often the case with documented abuse.

The state looks at the best interests of the child

When the state settles these issues, it looks to the child’s physical safety, mental health, education, resources, hygiene and happiness. Focusing on these matters helps the court make thoughtful decisions.

Custody situations are not permanent

While one custody setup or visitation plan may have been the case at first, that is not set in stone. You can always pursue a modification as things change.