Differences Between Legal and Physical Child Custody in California

Parents facing separation or divorce in California will have concerns about child custody. The custodial parent will have the right and responsibility to make choices about their child is raised and will be expected to provide a safe, secure home for their child or children.

California child custody falls into two categories, legal and physical custody. Continue reading as we discuss the differences between the two.

Legal Child Custody in the State of California

If a parent has legal custody over their child, they are entitled to make crucial decisions for their child. Some of the choices left to the custodial parent are as follows:

  • Education
  • Healthcare
  • Freedom to practice or to avoid religion
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Residence
  • Childcare

In California, both parents can share legal custody. This means that decisions will be made together concerning the child. Joint legal custody does not mean that both parents will have equal time with the child, but it allows for joint decision-making where the child is involved.

Alternatively, the court can decide to order sold legal custody to just one parent. In this case, the custodial parent is allowed to make choices concerning the child’s upbringing without consulting or needing input from the non-custodial parent.

Physical Child Custody

Physical custody, or where the child lives or spends the largest percentage of their time, can be awarded to both parents or just one in California. When sole physical custody is awarded to one parent, the parent lives with one parent while the other parent has visitation rights.

Visitation schedules can be arranged formally or worked out between the parents if things are amicable between the two. When parents share joint physical custody, the child spends a substantial amount of their time living in each parent’s home. It does not ensure that the child is with the parents equally, but instead, regularly or frequently.

Custody and visitation allow clear parameters for the child and their parents. It is determined by the court with the child’s best interest in mind.

How Custody is Determined in a California Divorce

When determining custody in a California divorce, there are several elements considered by the court to make sure that custody is in the best interest of the child. Some of these elements are listed below:

  • The age of the child
  • Healthcare concerns
  • The emotional bond between parent and their child
  • If the child is old enough, they may be allowed to express a preference
  • The parent’s proficiency in providing for the child’s physical and emotional requirements
  • Family history of domestic violence or substance abuse

Each divorce and custody situation has unique factors specific to that child. The court will review any information relevant to the child’s care and decide how to proceed in the child’s best interest.

Custody Orders Can Be Modified if Necessary

If significant changes present themselves in the future, the custody order at the time of the divorce can be modified in the child’s best interest. This can happen if one of the parents leaves the state for a job opportunity, if they struggle with addiction, or if there is evidence of neglect or abuse. The court will work to benefit the welfare of the child in any modifications to the original custody order.

Child Custody Issues

If you have questions concerning child custody issues, contact Martin Family Law Attorneys for guidance on how to best care for your child. We have experience in physical and legal custodial concerns and are here to help you ensure your child’s welfare.