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What types of child custody are there in California?

Child custody determinations can be a difficult process for many parents because of the concerns and emotions involved. There is a lot to be decided during the divorce process and child custody is likely the paramount concern for divorcing parents. It is helpful for them to understand how child custody is determined which can benefit them when discussing and negotiating a child custody agreement.

There are generally two types of child custody, including legal and physical custody. Legal custody refers to who makes decisions related to the child's health, education and welfare and can be joint or sole legal custody. Parents who share joint legal custody of the children share the rights and responsibilities associated with making significant decisions related to the care of the children, including their health, education and welfare, and other important decisions impacting the child's overall well being.

Physical custody of the child refers to who the child resides with. Physical custody can be joint custody or sole custody. Joint physical custody refers to when the parents share physical custody of the children. If parents share joint custody of the children, they may live with one parent during the week and the other parent on weekends and holidays and vacation time may also be shared. Different combinations of custody may apply in different situations based on what is in the best interests of the child.

Parents sharing joint physical or legal custody should be able to communicate openly and a joint legal custody arrangement should be clearly stated and may benefit from utilizing a calendar in the custody agreement. The family law process, including mediation resources, is available to help parents reach child custody agreements that are thoughtful, in the best interests of the child and work best for the family.

Source: The Superior Court of California, "Custody & Visitation," Accessed April 5, 2017

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