Child Custody And Visitation

When you separate or divorce, you need to decide who will have custody of your children and how they will be taken care of. You also need to decide on visitation, which means how each parent will spend time with the children.

There are two kinds of custody orders:

  • Legal custody, which means who makes important decisions for your children (health care, education and welfare)
  • Physical custody, which means who your children live with

Visitation (also called "time-share") is the plan for how the parents will share time with the children. In California, either parent can have custody, or the parents can share custody. The judge makes the final decision about custody and visitation but usually will approve the arrangement both parents agree on. If the parents can't agree, the judge will make a decision at a court hearing. The judge will usually not make a decision about custody/visitation until after the parents have met with a mediator from Family Court Services.

What are the types of custody orders?

Legal custody can be:

  • Joint, where both parents share the right and responsibility to make important
    decisions about the health, education and welfare of the children
  • Sole, where only one parent has the responsibility to make the important decisions about the health, education and welfare of the children

Some examples of the decisions or choices parents with legal custody make are:

  • School or child care
  • Religious activities or institutions
  • Psychiatric, psychological, or other mental health counseling or therapy needs
  • Doctor, dentist, orthodontist or other health professional visits (except in emergency situations)
  • Sports, summer camp, vacation or extracurricular activities
  • Travel
  • Where to live

Physical custody can be:

  • Joint, which means that the children live with both parents.
  • Sole or primary, which means the children live with one parent most of the time and usually visit the other parent. Sometimes, a judge gives parents joint legal custody, but not joint physical custody. This means both parents share the responsibility in making important decisions in the children's lives. But the children live with one parent most of the time. The parent who does not have physical custody usually has visitation with the children.

If you have any further questions on child custody, child visitation or child support, please call Goodrich & Cheung, LLP, at 858-429-9958 and a qualified family law attorney would be happy to speak with you.