If you’re going through a divorce, there are many decisions that need to be made. There’s an incredible amount of pain and stress that comes with the dissolution of a marriage, but if there’s also child custody involved, the worry of your child’s future can be all-consuming.
According to Pew Research, one out of every 5 children born within a marriage will endure their parent’s split or divorce by the age of 9. When a divorce involving minor children occurs, the most important decisions made are those involving custody.
In the state of California, there are two types of child custody – legal and physical. In some cases, the parents can come to an agreement regarding a custody arrangement, but often the courts step in to mediate and order a solution that is in the best interest of the child(ren).
If you’re in a position where the custody of your children is in question, the first step is to work with an experienced divorce attorney. The second step is to familiarize yourself with the custody laws in California. Here are the basics of legal and physical custody you need to know.
What Is The Difference Between Legal And Physical Child Custody?
Most people are familiar with the concepts of sole or joint custody, but they aren’t always clear on what these entail. In broad terms, being granted custody refers to being assigned and taking on the responsibilities of caring and providing all the needs of a child. However, there are different ways in which the court assigns how separated or divorced parents will meet those needs.
This is where we come to the difference between physical and legal custody. In simple terms, here are the main differences.
- Physical Custody: The term physical custody is used in reference to where the child will live following the custodial agreement. If one parent has sole physical custody, this doesn’t necessarily prevent the non-custodial parent from having visitations within their own home. In this situation, visitations may be limited and subject to review by the courts.
- Legal Custody: In contrast to physical custody, legal custody gives the parent or guardian the right to make major decisions on behalf of the child. This includes any and all decisions about the child’s welfare, medical treatment (with emergency situations being an exception), schooling, and religious or spiritual participation.
Sharing Legal And Physical Custody With The Other Parent
A question that is often asked by parents going through a divorce is whether they’ll be able to share in custodial rights and responsibilities with the other parent. The courts in California always have the best interests of the child in mind when making these decisions. This means that barring special circumstances or where abuse or neglect are present, both legal and physical custody is shared by both parents. We refer to this as a joint custody arrangement.
Parents who have joint physical custody will reach an agreement, with the court’s help if necessary, on a schedule and how much time the child will spend at each parent’s residence. This may be a 50/50 arrangement where time is split evenly or another arrangement that works for the parents.
Joint physical custody is a pretty straightforward concept. Sharing legal custody can sometimes be more complicated. Say for instance the court grants equal legal custody to both parents, but they have strong opposing views on religious doctrine or the best course of medical treatment. This can create a situation where parental conflict interferes with the best interests of the child being carried out.
When parents are granted joint legal child custody, there’s an expectation by the courts that both parents will behave in a way that places the child’s best interests above their own. Should an unresolvable conflict occur, the court may step in and make a decision on the child’s behalf.
Contact An Experienced Divorce Attorney To Assist You In Being Awarded Physical And Legal Child Custody
The thought of bringing children into an entangled child custody battle is too much for most parents to endure. If you’re involved in a divorce, contacting an experienced divorce attorney who can explain California’s custody laws and work with you to establish a custody agreement that is in the best interest of your child is key.
You need an advocate for both you and your child on your side. When you need the best family law attorney in Torrance, California, contact divorce attorney Bruce A. Mandel to review your child custody case. Help is just a phone call away at 424-250-9130. You can also contact us here and be sure to check us out on Facebook to learn more about family law topics that matter for today’s parents.