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Types of Child Custody in California

Orange County Custody Attorney

In the state of California, there are several types of custody that may be awarded in a child custody case. The type of custody awarded will depend on specific factors, including whether or not the custody arrangement is in the best interest of the child. The parent will need to prove that they can provide for their child both financially and emotionally. Physical custody, legal custody and/or joint custody will then need to be decided either between the parents outside of court, or by a family law judge. Due to their complexity and importance, these matters are best addressed by an Orange County divorce lawyer who can protect your interests and rights.

Joint / Shared Custody

In the state of California, family law courts tend to prefer child custody arrangements in which both parents are able to take active roles in the upbringing of their child, even after a divorce or legal separation. This is because the court holds that - as a general principle - it is best for a child to have contact with and influence from both of his or her parents. This type of custody arrangement is referred to as "joint custody" or "shared custody."

Remember to consider the best interest of your child as you make custody arrangements. It is almost always best for parents to be awarded joint custody. The exception to this is when one parent has a history of domestic violence, criminal activity, mental issues, or drug / alcohol abuse. If you believe that the child's other parent is not fit to take care of them, it is important that you explain this to your Orange County divorce attorney.

Joint/shared custody is categorized as the following:

  • Pure joint custody: Both parents have equal authority over the supervision and decision-making rights of their child. Legal and physical custody is shared between them.
  • Joint physical custody: Both parents are awarded significant periods of physical custody of the child. This type of custody means to ensure that the child has continuous and frequent contact with both of their parents, but the order does not necessarily divide time equally.
  • Joint legal custody: The right to make major choices regarding the child's health, education, and welfare is shared between both parents. Physical custody may be determined in a secondary decision.
  • Split custody: The parents have rights of visitation and each parent has custody of the same child for distinct and finite periods of time. Parents may divide legal custody between children, but maintain visitation rights to their noncustodial child.

Legal Custody

In California, legal custody refers to who is responsible for making decisions regarding the upbringing and well-being of a child. Should the court grant you this type of child custody, you will have a say in whatever important choices must be made regarding your child's education, religious upbringing, health, general welfare, medical treatments, and other legal decisions. While the court holds that joint or shared custody is preferable as a general principle, in some cases, one parent may be granted sole legal custody should it be demonstrated that the other parent is unable to properly raise the child.

Sole legal custody is usually only granted when the other parent is shown to have a history of substance abuse or domestic violence. Not all cases of sole legal custody necessitate sole physical custody. Parents without legal custody may still be granted visitation or physical custody. Physical custody is separate from legal custody because it has to do with which parent cares for the daily needs of the child and not which parent is responsible for making the decisions that impact their future and well-being.

Physical Custody

Physical custody determines where and with whom your child will live. In some cases, you may be awarded sole physical custody if the court determines that it is not in your child's best interests to spend any amount of time with the other parent. For example, the other parent may have a history of violence, drug addiction or alcohol abuse. This does not necessarily mean that the other parent will not have some say in decisions regarding your child's health, education, and welfare.

In addition, the court may still grant the other parent visitation rights even if you are awarded this type of custody. In most cases, the court prefers to seek joint physical custody arrangements whenever possible. California family law favors shared custody, as it is viewed to be in the child's best interests to have both parents involved in his or her upbringing. Various time schedules and other arrangements can be drafted to suit the unique needs of your family.

Sole Custody

If you intend to pursue sole custody of your child, it is very important for you to realize that these types of grants are relatively rare. As a general rule, family law judges prefer joint or shared custody situations between both parents whenever possible. In some cases, however, one parent is unfit to care for the child due to a history of violent crime, domestic abuse, alcoholism, drug addiction, or mental instability. If this is the case, it is imperative that you are able to demonstrate to the court why it is in the best interest of your child for you to be granted sole custody. Sole custody can be broken into three categories:

  • Exclusive custody: This order gives the parent legal and physical custody of the child. The parent with exclusive custody also has the right to make all decisions for the child's life, including where the child will reside and choices regarding their education, health, and general welfare.
  • Sole physical custody: This order means that the parent has the exclusive right to determine where the child will live and they supervise the child on a daily basis — however, this order does not give the custodial parent the exclusive right to make major decisions for the child.
  • Sole legal custody: The court may grant one parent exclusive rights to make all major decisions for the child without granting exclusive rights to the child's supervision and residence. The custodial parent has the ability to determine the child's education, health, and general welfare.

Contact Our Board Certified Family Law Specialist

As an Orange County family lawyer and board-certified specialist, I am very knowledgeable with the family court system and your parental rights. I can help prove your case to the courts in order to achieve a favorable outcome for your child custody case. I understand that these types of disputes can be very upsetting, to say the least, and I will do my very best to provide you with the reassurance that your case is in good hands.

Please contact Kevin B. Gibbs, APLC today so I can review the circumstances of your case and determine what legal action can be taken on your behalf.