The California Family Code differentiates between two different types of custody, referring to “Legal Custody” and “Physical Custody” in family law cases.
Legal Custody refers to the issues concerning a child’s health, education, and welfare. One parent may have sole legal custody and the exclusive power to make these choices, or parents may share joint legal custody and be required to confer with each other on these matters. This often includes decisions about a child’s school, physicians, and religious activities.
Likewise, Physical Custody is divided into sole or joint physical custody. Sole physical custody means a child lives with one parent, and joint physical custody occurs when both parents have the child a significant period of time.
More frequently, parents are often more focused on visitation, or the parenting plan that actually sets forth the schedule of when each parent will have their child. Parenting Plans can range from an equal division of time spent with both parents to an order that one parent’s visits be supervised by a third party.
In deciding the appropriate parenting plan, Court’s apply Family Code § 3011 and evaluate the child’s “best interest”. Some of the factors the Court must consider include the child’s age, the nature and amount of contact with both parents, the ability of the parents to cooperate, any history of domestic violence or abuse, and possibly even the child’s preference.
Just like each child is different, so is each child custody dispute. It is important to understand the child custody process and the impact of each decision made in your case.