Types of Child Custody in California

Child custody disputes are some of the hardest family law issues to go through, let alone settle. In many cases, each parent is fighting for as much custody over their children as possible, which is why so many custody disputes are frustrating to endure.

What Are the 4 Different Kinds of Child Custody?

As clear as child custody seems to be, though, it’s not all one thing. In fact, California recognizes four types of child custody that can play a role in any dispute. Keep reading to learn more about these types of child custody and what they could mean for you.

Legal Custody

When a parent has legal custody over their children, it means that they have the authority to make important decisions for them. These decisions can include where a child goes to school, what kind of medical care they receive, what their religious upbringing will be, and more.

This is an important concept to grasp because parents don’t always share legal custody. When they do, each parent has an equal say in these important decisions. That means they must work together to reach an agreement on issues where they disagree. When they don’t share legal custody, the parent without it can be frustrated knowing they have no say in what the other parent wishes to do.

That, however, doesn’t mean a parent without legal custody can’t spend time with their child or impart their values or life lesson. They can still “parent” their children, just in ways that don’t involve deciding important issues for them.

Physical Custody

Physical custody is a parent’s right to have their child in their own home. This is also a matter that determines which parent a child will live with most of the time. In most situations, one parent will have more physical custody or even sole physical custody.

In either scenario, the other parent is usually entitled to visitation. Visitation can be handled in a number of ways. It can be unsupervised and reserved for weekends and holidays, or it may be supervised for only a few hours per week.

In deciding physical custody and visitation matters, the court will examine where a child lives and what their daily routine is. It will also evaluate each parent’s ability to provide comfort and care for their children. Even though physical custody can be arranged jointly, it’s important to note that both parties are unlikely to get the same amount of time.

Sole Custody

When a parent has sole custody of their child, it means they – and they alone – have legal and physical custody. Parents with sole custody have 100% authority over the important decisions in their children’s lives and their children live with them 100% of the time.

While the other parent may be entitled to visitation, generally speaking, it’s supervised visitation. This is because sole custody is usually granted in situations where the courts believe that awarding custody to one parent would be detrimental to a child’s welfare. That said, sole custody may also be arranged when one or both parents seem unable or unwilling to co-parent their children.

Joint Custody

Joint custody is a more complex arrangement than sole custody. In a joint custody arrangement, parents can equally share legal and physical child custody, or just one of these.

For example, it’s possible for Spouse A to have sole physical custody of their child but have joint legal custody with Spouse B. Although the children do not live with Spouse B, this person still has a legal right to make important decisions for them.

Joint custody arrangements are typical in situations where parents are able and willing to work together to parent their children. They can work together on a co-parenting plan to present to the court, which a judge may affirm or modify depending upon what they believe is in the children’s best interests.

Again, parents who share joint physical custody are unlikely to have an even amount of time with their children, but sometimes these arrangements can come close or make up for it in other ways.

Do You Have a Question about Child Custody?

At Claery & Hammond, LLP, we can help parents like you navigate the complexities of child custody arrangements. Whether you’re facing this issue for the first time or are seeking a modification to an existing order, we offer the legal support necessary to help you work toward achieving your goals.

Learn more about what we can do for you by scheduling a consultation with our team. Contact us online today to learn more!