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As a parent, your child’s well-being is the most important thing to you. Unfortunately, making sure that the child’s best interests are respected and upheld during a divorce is not always easy. If you and your ex are negotiating child custody, it is important for both of you to fully understand the implications of the different types of custody.

When most people in California think of child custody, they think that you either have it, or you do not. However, the situation is usually more nuanced than that. Custody can refer to either legal or physical custody, both of which may either be sole or joint custody.

Physical custody refers to where a child lives. In the case of joint physical custody, your child would live with both you and your ex for roughly equal periods of time. In sole physical custody your child might live with only you, while their other parent may have visitation or no role in the child’s physical care.

Legal custody involves the right of a parent to make decisions on behalf of his or her child. If you have joint legal custody, both you and your ex can make decisions about your child’s education, medical care and more. If you have sole legal custody, you can make these decisions on your own.

In California, it is possible to have a combination of these various types of custody. For instance, you could have sole physical custody but still share legal custody with your ex. Or you might share both legal and physical custody. Many different factors will go into this decision, including your child’s age, his or her relationship with you and the other parent, personal needs and the child’s overall well-being. More information about child custody is readily available on our website.