Understanding the Different Types of Custody Arrangements in California

In California, various types of custody arrangements can be made based on family circumstances and the child’s best interests. The two types of custody are legal and physical, which concern the decision-making rights of parents and the child’s residence. Each kind of custody can be awarded as sole or joint, giving one or both parents responsibilities. Generally, when sole physical custody is granted, the non-custodial parent will get visitation with their child.

If you’re involved in a child custody matter, discuss your case with a member of our San Diego team by calling Claery & Hammond, LLPat (310) 817-6904 or contacting us online.

What Is a Custody Arrangement?

A custody arrangement is an agreement between two parents concerning the care and upbringing of their child. Custody arrangements can be court-ordered, meaning that a judge has determined the responsibilities of each parent. The parents can also decide on them through negotiations and compromises.

Ultimately, custody arrangements allow one or both parents to remain involved in their child’s life, providing them with a loving and stable environment to grow up in.

The Different Types of Child Custody

When determining child custody arrangements, the court or the parents must decide about physical and legal custody. They also have to decide whether custody will be joint or sole. Let’s explore these concepts in more detail.

Legal and Physical Custody

Legal custody refers to a parent’s right to make decisions about their child’s health, education, and welfare. On the other hand, physical custody is concerned with where the child will live, or more specifically, which parent the child will live with.

Joint and Sole Custody

In a joint custody arrangement, both parents share responsibility for their child. With sole custody, only one parent has the legal authority to care for or make decisions on behalf of their child.

The Various Combinations of Custody Arrangements

In California, child custody can be arranged in various ways depending primarily on the child’s best interests. That said, the parents’ situations may also be factored into the decision.

Possible custody arrangements include the following:

  • Joint physical and legal custody: In this arrangement, both parents have an equal say in decisions regarding their child’s health, education, and welfare. They may also spend an equal (or near equal) amount of time with their child. California courts typically prefer to award this arrangement, as it provides the child consistent contact with both parents and gives both parents a say in their child’s life.
  • Sole physical and legal custody: This is when only one parent has the right to make decisions concerning their child. Also, the child spends more than 50% of the time with the parent.
  • Sole physical and joint legal: If this type of arrangement is decided on, one parent is primarily responsible for living arrangements for the child. However, the parents will have shared responsibilities for making decisions about their child’s welfare.

Exploring Parenting Time Arrangements

Parenting time (also called visitation) refers to the amount of time a parent who does not have primary physical custody can spend with their child. Parenting time typically considers holidays and vacation schedules, as well as regular weekly visits.

Different types of parenting time orders can be issued:

  • Scheduled: For parents and children who need structure, having a pre-arranged schedule may be the way to go. This arrangement allows both parties to recognize in advance when the child will be with which parent during the week, on weekends, and on special occasions like birthdays and holidays. It helps the parents avoid conflict.
  • Reasonable: If parents are on good terms, an open-ended plan may be viable. The parents can customize visitation based on their unique situation. It’s essential that communication stay strong and constructive between parents, as not having a set schedule could lead to misunderstandings.
  • Supervised: This arrangement may be made to protect the child’s safety. The court might determine that allowing one-on-one contact between a parent and child might not be in the child’s best interests. Thus, a third party, whether that’s another adult or professional agency, must be present during visits.
  • No visitation: A parent might not be allowed contact with their child if the court determines that, even with supervision, such an arrangement would endanger the child’s safety.

Get Legal Help with Your Custody Matter

Custody arrangements can vary from family to family. Each parent has rights, interests, and individual wishes that should be considered. Various combinations of arrangements are available to accommodate parents’ needs. Still, the plan should ultimately be decided based on what’s in the child’s best interests. As all families have different dynamics, having an experienced family law lawyer be a guide through these complicated matters is beneficial.

To learn more about how our San Diego team at Claery & Hammond, LLP may be able to assist with your case, please contact us at (310) 817-6904.