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Child Custody

What is the difference between Legal Custody and Physical Custody?

Legal Custody refers to who shall have the right and responsibility to make decisions related to health, education and welfare of the child(ren).  Physical Custody refers to the amount of time a child will spend with each parent; where the children live; how day-to-day responsibilities are fulfilled.

What does Primary Custody mean?

The court will generally appoint one person as the primary caregiver of the child.  This would be the home that the child considers their primary residence, due to considerations of school, daycare and other activities in the child’s life.  This person would have Primary Custody of the child.

What is the difference between Join Legal Custody and Sole Legal Custody?

Joint Legal Custody means that both parents shall share the right and responsibility to make the decisions related to health, education and welfare of the child.  In Sole Legal Custody those decisions would be made by only one parent.  In making an order for custody with respect to both parents, the court may grant joint legal custody without granting joint physical custody.

What is the difference between Joint Physical Custody and Sole Physical Custody?

Joint Physical custody means that each of the parents shall have significant periods of time with their child.  The time would be shared in such a way to insure that they child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents.  Joint Physical Custody does not mean the exact division of time with each parent, but can be based on reasonable time with each parent either specifically spelled out (certain days, weeks, holidays, alternative periods) or based on stated guidelines and shared payment of the cost(s) of raising the child(ren).  In making an order for joint physical custody, the court may also specify one parent as the primary caretaker of the child and one home as the primary home for the child. In Sole Physical Custody the child will reside with and be under the supervision of one parent.  The other parent may be granted visitation with the child.

I was granted Joint Custody, what does this mean?

This means that both parents have joint physical and joint legal custody of the child.  Although the parent who has the physical care of the child at any given time may make routine decisions, all major decisions regarding health, education and welfare of the child are to be made jointly by both parents.  Both parents shall have access to information regarding their child, as in, medical records, school records, etc.  Each parent is to keep the other advised, within a reasonable amount of time, as to doctor visits, school or athletic events, etc.  All decisions concerning the child need to be made jointly.

How are Custody issues decided?

The best interest of the child(ren) is of primary concern to the court when making any orders regarding the Physical or Legal custody.  It is the public policy of the state of California to assure that children have frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents have separated, divorced, or ended their relationship, and to encourage parent to share the rights and responsibilities of raising the child(ren) except with the contact would not be in the best interest of the child, such as in situations involving domestic violence.

If the parents are unable to come to an agreement regarding legal and/or physical custody of the child(ren) the court will consider a variety of factors in making an order such as, the age and stage of development of the child(ren), the quality of the parent-child(ren) relationship, the emotional, social, and educational needs of the child(ren) and parental support.

Can Custody orders be changed?

Yes.  If the parents can not mutually agree on a change, one of the parents must file a motion with the court asking for a change. Although both parties may agree to the change, since it is not an order, it is not enforceable. 

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