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What child custody arrangements exist under California law?

In many divorce cases, children can suffer the worst from their parents' estrangement. Many times, child custody and child support can become a very bitter and drawn out battle. Custodial issues are exacerbated in cases where the children are born out of wedlock. In most states, including California, the father may not get automatic paternity rights or custody.

There are various types of custodial arrangements recognized under California law. The broadest classification is organized into two categories: physical custody and legal custody. A parent or guardian with whom the minor children stays with is said to have the physical custody of the children. Legal custody refers to all decisions related to education, medical treatments, religion and other decisions made on behalf of the children.

Both forms of child custody are then further subdivided into two additional categories: sole custody and joint custody. Under sole custody, only one parent or guardian has the right to the physical and legal custody of the minor children, while the other parent may have some visitation rights as determined by a custodial arrangement or parenting plan. Under sole legal custody, only one parent has the right to make decisions regarding health, education and religion on behalf of the child.

In most cases nowadays, both parents want to have a say in their children's lives. Thus, many opt for joint custody in accordance with California law. Under joint custody, both parents have both the physical and legal custody of the children. In some cases of joint custody, one parent may still have primary custody.

Thus, the children spend most of their time with the parent who has primary custody. The non-custodial parent may then come and visit the children as per the custodial arrangement or may even have the children stay over as per the parenting plan. It may be beneficial to consult a legal professional in order to find the optimal custodial arrangement to suit their individual case.

Source: Courts.CA.gov, "Basics of Custody & Visitation Orders," accessed on Sept. 18, 2014

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