California Custody Guidebook

About 50% of children in the U.S. have divorced parents. For couples deciding to split, child custody can be one of the most stressful parts of a divorce. The thought of having to give up time with your child can be hard when you are accustomed to seeing them every day. California’s complex custody laws don’t make the situation any easier.

Our dedicated firm can help you with this process. We want to ensure that this significant transition in your life goes smoothly for you and your children. Understanding how custody agreements work in California is crucial to your case. Keep reading to know what your options are.

Types of Custody Agreements

There are two types of child custody in California:

  • Legal custody - the parent who makes important decisions for the child.

  • Physical custody - the parent who the child lives with

Legal custody can be joint or sole. Sole custody means only one parent has the rights and responsibilities to make important decisions for the child. In joint custody, both parents can make important decisions for the child. Parents with legal custody make decisions about the child’s:

  • School or child care

  • Religion

  • Mental health needs

  • Medical, dental, or other health needs

  • Extracurricular activities

  • Travel

  • Where the child will live

Physical custody can be joint, in which the child will live with both parents. However, it’s important to note this does not mean the child has to spend exactly half of their time with each parent. Typically, the child will spend more than half of their time with one parent because it is more convenient. This parent can be called the primary custodial parent.

Physical custody can also be sole or primary. Sometimes, parents can have joint legal custody, but not joint physical custody. In this situation, the child will live with one parent for the majority of the time, and then have visitation time with the other parent. There are several visitation options that a court can order depending on which they think will be in the best interest of the child. These include:

  • Visitation according to a schedule - a detailed plan that schedules out all the dates and times that a child will visit each parent; this includes holidays and special occasions.

  • Reasonable visitation - an open-ended plan that does not have to have all the details of when a child will be with each parent; this agreement works well with parents who get along well.

  • Supervised visitation - in this plan, either the primary parent, another adult or a professional agency will supervise a child’s visit with the other parent so they can monitor the child’s safety or well-being.

  • No visitation - the child will not have any visitation time if visiting the other parent, even with supervision, would be emotionally or physically harmful to them.

Common Custody Scenarios and Outcomes

There are a couple of different outcomes that can occur when it comes to custody agreements. Parents can make custom custody agreements without a court order. However, if one parent does not follow the agreement, it cannot be enforced until there is a court order. Getting a custody agreement approved by a judge is a good idea because it will ultimately protect the child’s best interest if a parent starts to violate the agreement.

If both parties cannot agree on an arrangement, a judge will order them to mediation where mediators will decide the custody and visitation schedule. If both parties agree to the arrangement, it becomes binding, and a court can enforce it. If they still cannot agree, a judge will determine what custody agreement will be in the child’s best interest.

How Courts Determine Custody

Each case is different with various considerations that courts look at when determining custody. Typically, the court will favor joint or shared custody since it is in the best interest of the child. Common factors that the court will look when determining custody include:

  • The child’s age (children over 12 may have the option to voice their opinion on physical custody)

  • The child’s health

  • How attached the child is to each parent

  • The parent’s ability to care for the child

  • If there is any history of family (domestic) violence

  • If there is any history of substance abuse in the family

  • The child’s ties to their environment (their school or home)

How Custody Impacts Child Support

Child support is money that a court orders a parent to pay every month to help pay for the support of the child and their living expenses. California laws on child support suggest that a child should benefit from the financial support of both parents, regardless of if the parents are together or not.

Child support agreements are entirely separate from child custody and visitation orders. Typically, the parent who has custody of the child most of the time may receive child support to ensure all of the child’s needs are met. If the child lives with both parents about the same amount of time, a parent still might have to pay child support if there is a difference in each parent’s income.

Contact An Attorney Who Understands

Child support agreements can be complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. The Law Offices of Christopher L. Hoglin understand that custody issues can be stressful, but we’re here to support you throughout it all. Having an experienced and knowledgeable child custody attorney on your side can help you get the results you want.

If you think you have a case regarding child custody, don’t hesitate to call us today at (626) 653-4075 for a free consultation.

 

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