There are different types of child custody orders a judge may grant. The judge will grant a child custody order in accordance to whether living with you, the other parent, or both would be detrimental to your child. In addition, the judge would take into consideration the best interest of your child when granting child custody orders.
In California, either parent can have custody of the children, or the parents can share custody. The judge makes the final decision about custody and visitation but usually will approve the arrangement (the parenting plan) that both parents agree on. If the parents cannot agree, the judge will make a decision at a court hearing. The judge will usually not make a decision about custody and visitation until after the parents have met with a mediator from Family Court Services
Types of custody orders
There are two kinds of child custody:
- Legal custody, which means who makes important decisions for your children (like health care, education, and welfare), and
- Physical custody, which means who your children live with.
Legal custody can be:
- Joint, where both parents share the right and responsibility to make the important decisions about the health, education, and welfare of the children.
- Sole, where only 1 parent has the right and responsibility to make the important decisions about the health, education, and welfare of the children.
Parents with legal custody make decisions or choices about their children’s:
- School or child care
- Religious activities or institutions
- Psychiatric, psychological, or other mental health counseling or therapy needs
- Doctor, dentist, orthodontist, or other health professional (except in emergency situations)
- Sports, summer camp, vacation, or extracurricular activities
- Residence (where the children will live)
In the vast majority of cases, courts prefer to grant joint legal custody orders to allow you and the other parent to be involved in your child’s life, and to give you and the other parent equal input and influence in the important decisions regarding your child’s health, education, and welfare.
A physical custody order refers to which parent the child will reside with. There are two types of physical custody orders:
- Primary Physical Custody (Cal. Fam. Code § 3007): A sole physical custody arrangement means “the child will reside with and be under the supervision of one parent, subject to the power of the court to order visitation.” Thus, your child will live with a custodial parent, which could be you or the other parent. If you have primary physical custody, the other parent will likely be granted “visitation rights”.
- Joint Physical Custody (Cal. Fam. Code § 3004): A joint physical custody arrangement means “that each parent shall have significant periods of physical custody.” According to the provision, the goal of joint physical custody is to ensure your child will have frequent and continuing contact with you and the other parent. Thus, your child will reside with you and the other parent, but the time may not be divided equally due to obligations such as school and work.
There are different types of visitation orders:
- Visitation according to a schedule: If the other parent has visitation rights, this visitation order establishes the exact days and times the other parent will spend with your child.
- Reasonable Visitation: This order allows visitation to be open-ended. Under this arrangement, you and the other parent can be flexible on visitation days and times.
- Supervised Visitation: If your child’s safety and well-being could be harmed, the parent with visitation rights might be supervised when spending time with the child. If the other parent has visitation rights, the other parent can be supervised by you, another adult, or by a professional agency.
It is important to remember that with visitation orders, in some very difficult and complex child custody cases, courts would rather grant a specific visitation order detailing the days and times you and the other parent spends with your child in order to avoid ongoing litigation as to what is “reasonable” visitation.
The law on deciding custody and visitation
The law says that judges must give custody according to what is in the “best interest of the child.”
To decide what is best for a child, the court will consider:
- The age of the child,
- The health of the child,
- The emotional ties between the parents and the child,
- The ability of the parents to care for the child,
- Any history of family violence or substance abuse, and
- The child’s ties to school, home, and his or her community.
Courts do not automatically give custody to the mother or the father, no matter what the age or sex of your children. Courts cannot deny your right to custody or visitation just because you were never married to the other parent, or because you or the other parent has a physical disability or a different lifestyle, religious belief, or sexual orientation.
We will be there when you call
Child custody cases are very difficult and complex to understand. If you are in a custody battle for your child, you need an experienced child custody attorney to guide you through the legal process. Contact our law firm today at 562-439-9001 if you or someone you know needs the help of an experienced family law attorney. We will be here for you when you call. Schedule a free consultation!
We are very central to all of Long Beach, Seal Beach, Lakewood, Palos Verdes, San Pedro, Newport Beach; and regularly serve all of Los Angeles.
This is intended as general advice and should not be interpreted as legal advice. Each situation is unique and requires specific analysis of relevant contracts, facts and legal obligations.