What do you need to know about child custody in California?

There are two types of custody in California: physical custody and legal custody. The state judicial branch defines physical custody as «who your children live with» and legal custody as «who makes important decisions for your children.» Parents can share these responsibilities, or one can take on a specific role.

In a joint custody situation, the key to your child’s successful future is communication with your counterpart. As long the two of you can agree on important decisions and a visitation schedule, you won’t have to go back to court where a judge will decide for you. If a judge does get involved, there are four types of visitation orders that can be given:

  • Reasonable visitation – This entails an open-ended schedule with no specifics as to when you and your child can spend time together.
  • Visitation according to a schedule – This detailed plan attempts to prevent conflict through appointing specific days when your child will be with a specific parent.
  • Supervised visitation – This is used in two instances: when your child needs time to get to know you as a parent, and when your child’s safety requires another adult’s presence.
  • No visitation – If visiting with a specific parent causes physical or emotional harm to your child, this option may be established for your child’s best interests.

A judge will choose whether you or the other parent should get physical and/or legal custody by deliberating on a multitude of factors to ensure the best possible future for your child. Those factors include your child’s age, health, familial relationships, ties to the community and whether you have the ability to care for the child. This information is solely for your consideration and should not be interpreted as legal advice.

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