When a divorce or separation involves children under the age of 18, the issues of sole or joint custody and visitation can become the most important issues parents or the court can face. In California, the goal of the court is to find an arrangement that serves the “best interests of children”.
There are two categories of joint custody: physical custody and legal custody.
Joint physical custody refers to when both parents have significant periods of time with the child(ren). Such a custody arrangement allows the child(ren) to live part-time with both parents. When parents live relatively close to each other, sharing physical custody can be easier and less stressful for the child(ren). However, it is possible, some circumstances, to have a joint custodial arrangement even when parents are not living near each other.
Sole physical custody refers to when the child(ren) lives primarily with one parent. This may occur when actual distance between parents is an issue or one parent is unable to care for the child(ren) on a regular or frequent basis. In most cases, though, the non-custodial parent retains the right to visitation and parenting time with the child(ren).
Joint legal custody refers to when both parents retain the right and responsibility to make decisions related to the child(ren)’s upbringing, including their health, education, and overall welfare. If a divorce agreement awards joint legal custody, then decision-making is shared by both parents equally. In California, the law states that the preferred legal custodial arrangement is joint.
Sole legal custody refers to when only one parent is responsible for making all decisions regarding the health, education, and welfare of the child(ren). Parties may agree to this arrangement. However, if there is no agreement the parties will need to go to Court. It is uncommon for the Court to grant sole legal custody to a parent. A parent must convince the Family Court judge that sole physical custody is in “the best interest of the child(ren)”.
Resolving Sole or Joint Custody Issues
There are many ways for parents to reach custody agreements, whether the issue is physical or legal custody, sole or joint custody. If the two parties have separated or divorced amicably, then mediation or private judging may provide the best solution. In other cases, when an agreement cannot be reached, a parent must file a request with the Court so that a judge can decide how much time the child(ren) can spend with each parent and whether one or both parents will be making the important decisions for the child(ren).
If there already are custodial orders in place, a parent can go back to court and ask for for a change in the physical or legal custody arrangement, if it can be shown that there is a change in a child’s or a parent’s circumstances or if it is in the best interest of the child(ren).
When the parents go to Court because they cannot agree on custody or visitation, judges in California are required to send the parents to Family Court Services (FCS) in most cases.
Consultation with a Family Law Expert
The attorneys at Viola Law can help you throughout the divorce process including joint custody or sole custody — both physical and legal. When finding the best solution that is right for your child is at the heart of your legal matter, we will be by your side every step of the way.
Your first step is to call us. We’ll begin with a conversation, gathering information about your child custody situation. Next, we’ll schedule an initial meeting with one of the attorneys at our office so we can advise you on how to proceed. As your legal representative, rest assured that your information remains private and confidential.
Choosing Viola Law for Your Property Settlement and Agreement
Viola Law has a reputation for personalized service. We’re sensitive to our clients’ family law needs. We’ve helped thousands of families in San Mateo County and the surrounding Bay Area counties over 28 years; we’ve successfully guided our clients through all aspects of marriage planning, divorce, custody, financial support, and property division and divorce settlements. We have experienced family law attorneys available including a mediator and private judge.