Types of Child Custody in California Explained: How Do They Differ?

Some of the most complicated cases in family court are child custody battles. Custody can be an issue that is resolved during marriage proceedings, or it can be something that needs to be resolved between parents that aren’t legally married.

You and the other parent can reach a mutual agreement on custody arrangements. However, if you cannot agree on the issue, the court will step in to decide the issue for you.

If you are trying to work out custody with your child’s other parent or are currently involved in a custody battle, it’s essential to know your options. This article will discuss the types of child custody in California.

Types of Child Custody

When deciding child custody, courts consider what’s in the child’s best interest. In California, the judge will decide between four custody options. Here is a breakdown of each.

Legal Custody

Legal custody determines which parent (or both) will have the right and responsibility to make decisions about the child’s health, what school they attend, where they will live, and what religion they will practice. The two types of legal custody are:

  • Sole Legal Custody means that one parent has the exclusive right to make these decisions for the child. (CA Fam. Code § 3006)
  • Joint Legal Custody means that both parents will be responsible for making these decisions. (CA Fam. Code § 3003)

Most of the time, the court prefers to grant joint legal custody to allow both parents to be part of the child’s life and to allow equal input from each parent on important decisions in the child’s life.

You must remember that even if you are granted joint legal custody, if there are issues that come up that both parents can’t agree on, you’ll have to go back to court, and a judge will decide what is in the child’s best interest.

The courts may choose not to grant joint legal custody in some cases. This may happen if one of the parties has a history of severe mental health issues, has been incarcerated, has a history of domestic violence, or if the judge feels that one of the parents shouldn’t be responsible for making decisions for the child.

Physical Custody

Physical custody determines with which parent the child will reside. The two types of physical custody are:

  • Primary physical custody means that the child will live with one parent, and the other parent will likely have visitation rights. (CA Fam. Code § 3007)
    • If you have been granted visitation rights under a custody order, there are different types of visitation as well.
      • Scheduled visitation sets exact dates and times when you can spend time with your child.
      • Reasonable visitation allows both parents to be flexible on the dates and times of visitation.
      • Supervised visitation occurs when the child’s safety and well-being are in question. During supervised visitation, the visit will be supervised by the other parent, a professional agency, or another trustworthy adult.
  • Joint physical custody means that the child will live with both parents. The goal of this arrangement is to allow the child to have continuous and frequent contact with both parents. While the child will live with both parents, the time with each may not be equally divided due to obligations such as school or work. (CA Fam. Code § 3004)

Sole Custody

Sole custody gives both legal and physical custody to one parent. That means that the child would live with one parent, and that parent would be exclusively responsible for making all important decisions in the child’s life.

Joint Custody

When joint custody is granted, both parents have physical and legal custody of the child, and both have an equal right to make all important decisions in the child’s life. The child may also live with both parents, although the time may not be split equally due to other obligations such as work and school. (CA Fam. Code § 3002)

While “joint custody” emphasizes equal decision-making authority and legal responsibility, “shared custody” tends to underscore the practical aspect of the child’s living arrangements.

Let Azemika Law Answer Your Child Custody Questions

If you’re going through a divorce involving children and you have questions related to child custody, enlisting the assistance of an experienced family law attorney is essential. Your attorney can answer any questions and help ensure that you are doing everything in your power to protect your parental rights.

At Azemika Law, our law firm’s practice is devoted exclusively to family law. Our partners have a combined total of over 56 years of experience in family law. Our goal for every client is to provide knowledgeable, aggressive, affordable representation to achieve their goals in a timely fashion.
Contact us today for a consultation.

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