Child Custody Basics in California

Whether you face a hotly contested custody battle or are contemplating an agreement with your soon-to-be-ex, it is vital that you understand the legal terminology of custody orders in California, such as sole custody, joint custody, legal custody and physical custody. There are two main facets of child custody. Physical custody refers to who the children will live with. On the other hand, legal custody refers to who has authority to make key decisions about the children, such as health choices, education, and religious training. Sometimes, children of divorced parents in California will live primarily with one parent or the other. That parent will be known as the sole physical custodian. Another possible outcome of a custody dispute is that both parents are granted shared physical custody, or joint physical custody. Joint physical custody means that the children will spend as much time with both parents as possible, but it does not mean parents will necessarily get equal time with the children. Separate from the physical custody arrangement, parents commonly share joint legal custody, meaning they share joint authority to make major decisions for the children. Sometimes, one parent is awarded sole legal custody, which means that parent has the sole right and responsibility to make major decisions for the children. Under California law, judges must decide custody based on what is in the best interests of the children. To make that decision, judges consider many factors, including:
  • The ages of the children,
  • The emotional ties between the parents and the children,
  • The ability of the parents to care for the children,
  • The health of the children,
  • Any history of family violence or substance abuse, and
  • The children’s ties to school, home, and community.
Custody is not automatically awarded to the mother or the father. Rather, a parent seeking sole custody must show that it is in the children’s best interest for that parent to have sole legal and physical custody, and must be prepared to refute the other parent’s evidence to the contrary. The Law Offices of Judy L. Burger can assist you in fighting for your rights and those of your children in a custody dispute in California. Judy L. Burger is known for her aggressive representation of clients in high conflict cases in and around the Sacramento and San Francisco Bay areas. If you are a parent facing a custody battle, and would like to learn more about how we can help you, contact us today at (916)631-1935 in the Sacramento area, or (415)293-8314 in the San Francisco Bay area, or online via our confidential inquiry form.