Dividing parenting responsibilities is one of the most significant challenges of getting divorced. One of the first things that have to be determined is whether one parent will have sole custody physical custody of the children, or if custody will be shared between parents, it is essential to note that while each state makes a distinction between physical and legal custody, the applicable laws vary from state to state.
Primary Physical Custody
In California, sole physical custody is also called primary physical custody. With sole custody, the child only lives with one parent, while the other parent may have scheduled visitation or parenting time. Once the court gives sole physical custody to one parent, that parent has the right to control the physical care of the child without the need to ask the other parent. Once sole legal custody is ordered to one parent, that parent also has the right to make all other decisions over the child’s life, without the other parent’s approval.
Sole physical custody positively has advantages for a parent that has that order. Advantages like a sole physical custody order give that parent a circumstantial right to move with the child. Now that does not mean that parent can simply take off with the child whenever he or she wants. The court has the power to handle a parent’s move.
Family Code 7501 states:
(a) A parent entitled to the custody of a child has a right to change the residence of the child, subject to the power of the court to restrain a removal that would prejudice the rights or welfare of the child.
(b) It is the intent of the Legislature to affirm the decision in In re Marriage of Burgess (1996) 13 Cal.4th 25, and to declare that ruling to be the public policy and law of this state.”
That Burgess decision is an interesting case and it is beyond the scope of this page to go into Burgess in a lot of detail.
The noncustodial parent still maintains the right to communicate with the child frequently as a result of his court-approved visitation. The noncustodial parent can lose these parental rights in certain situations like due to a prolonged absence from the child’s life or child abuse.
Sole Physical Custody with Sole Legal Custody
A parent with sole physical custody and sole legal custody holds exclusive rights to take care of the child physically and to legally make important decisions that perform the child’s safety, health and welfare. The court must consider the best interest of the child before it awards sole physical custody or sole legal custody to one parent.
Parent has the right to control the physical care of the child without the need to discuss the other parent. Once sole legal custody is allowed to one parent, that parent also has the right to make all other decisions over the child’s life, without the other parent’s approval.
Sole custody may be preferable when one parent:
- Is addicted to drugs or alcohol
- Suffers from a mental or physical disability
- Has a history of domestic abuse
- Travels often and can’t provide a steady home for the child
- Is visibly absent from the child’s life
Sole custody can also be useful when two parents do not live near one another after a divorce, and It wouldn’t be fair to the child to require them to live half of their life in one state and half of their life in another.
Does Sole Custody Mean that the Non-Custodial Parent Nevermore Sees Their Child?
No, visitations can be supervised or unsupervised. Supervised visitation means that a parent cannot waste time with their child alone. Another person must be present to make sure that the child is secure and that the visitation time is beneficial. Supervised visitation may be necessary when sole custody is granted due to concerns about a parent’s ability to care for their child safely.
Sole Physical Custody with Shared Legal Custody
The shared legal custody means that both parents share in the right and responsibility to make decisions relating to the health, education, and welfare of a child. Part of legal custody includes the right to make decisions over religious upbringing.
Parents typically share joint legal custody, unless one of the following is true:
- The parents are completely unable to make decisions together one parent is deemed unfit
- One parent is incapable of making decisions regarding the upbringing and general welfare of the child, or it would be in the child’s best interests for one parent to have sole legal custody.
Courts will always support parents to find a way to make a shared custody plan work. But there are times when allowing both parents to share legal and physical custody is not in the child’s best interest. This happens when there is evidence to insinuate that a parent would not be physically, emotionally, or psychologically fit to take care of their child.
CONTACT A SKILLED FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY TODAY
Establishing child custody arrangements can be challenging. It’s always best to work with an experienced family law attorney. That is why you should not wait to contact an experienced family law attorney immediately if you are going through a divorce with a child custody process. A skilled family lawyer will be able to guide you through the legal process and help you obtain a favorable outcome in your case.
Contact our law firm today at 562-439-9001if you or someone you know needs the help of an experienced family law attorney. We will be there when you call.
If you have recently been served with divorce papers in Long Beach, Seal Beach, Lakewood, Palos Verdes, San Pedro, Newport Beach, or Los Angeles; we can help you. William D. Evans family law attorneys are here to help you. Contact our law firm today at 562-439-900, schedule a free consultation!