• JC Serrano

Everything You Need to Know About California Child Custody Laws

Updated: Jun 5

Find A Family Lawyer in Los Angeles for Child Custody Claims


Child custody is the legal term for the care, supervision, and upkeep of a child that a court may grant to one of the parents following a divorce or separation proceeding. Custody battles are unfortunately popular in this country. Many people fall in love and have children, but the love does not last for some reason, and now they have a child to raise. You might need to help of a Child Custody Lawyer to get you through these complicated times.


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A parent's responsibility is to raise their child and provide them with at least the necessities of life, such as a home, an education, health care, and a spiritual upbringing, whether it is religious or values-based. If there is a dispute over which parent has the parental right to raise the child and make these decisions, or if government authorities think either of the parents is incompetent to raise the child, the family courts or juvenile courts will step in to decide who gets custody of the child.


Child Support in California


Child welfare in California is determined by the amount of time each parent spends caring for the child and each parent's net disposable monthly income. If the measurement of child support is insufficient in a specific situation, the court has the authority to deviate from the guidelines.


The court can also change child support in California due to a shift in circumstances. This would include the following:

  • A big adjustment in the income of one of the parents

  • A change in the parent with whom the child spends more time.

  • A change in the child's financial requirements (such as extraordinary medical or educational expenses)

Child support payments processed by the Department of Child Support Services can be set up electronically after the divorce has been granted, making the process more convenient for both parties. The Department of Child Support Services handles child support compliance if payment of child support becomes an issue.


Understanding the various forms of custody is critical when you approach your child custody or visitation case. In California, there are two forms of custody.


Child Custody under California Family Law


3003 of the California Family Code


Legal custody refers to a parent's right and power to make major decisions about their child's life, such as his or her health, schooling, religious activities, and so on. Typically, both parents will be given "joint" legal custody, which ensures that regardless of which parent the child resides with, both parents will be able to make certain types of decisions (see "physical custody" below). In more unusual circumstances, such as when parents are unable to make decisions together or when one parent is considered "unfit" to have legal custody, the court can award sole legal custody to one parent.


Legal custody orders in California grant one or both parents the authority to make decisions about:

  • Enrollment or withdrawal from a specific private or public school or daycare center.

  • Psychiatric, mental, or other psychological counseling or therapy begins or ends.

  • Extracurricular sports participation

  • Choosing a doctor, dentist, or other health care provider (a parent does not need to have legal custody to take action in emergency situations)

Participation in specific religious practices or institutions is prohibited.


3004 of the California Family Code


The term "physical custody" refers to which parent the child lives with on a daily basis. One parent typically has "primary" physical custody, which means the child stays with and is supervised by that parent for the majority of the time. The other parent frequently has visitation rights in such situations. Both parents have "joint" physical custody if the child spends considerable time with both parents.


A court will frequently consider the following factors when determining physical custody issues:

  • Schedules of work

  • Arrangements for living

  • Domestic violence or harassment in the past

  • Other details unique to each situation that will be considered in the best interests of the child

When deciding how physical custody will be shared if at all, the child's best interests are taken into account first and foremost.


Sole custody


The main physical caretaker is determined to be one of the parents. In this case, the noncustodial parent is often given a generous visiting schedule as well as the right to participate in shared decisions regarding the child's upbringing.


In an effort to broaden and expand the role of a divorced father in his children's lives, most courts are moving away from granting sole custody to one parent. However, suppose one parent is considered unfit due to alcohol or drug addiction. In that case, their new wife is unsuitable, or they are accused of negligence or assault, the courts are likely to give the other parent sole physical custody.


You can not seek sole custody unless the other parent is causing serious harm to the children.


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Joint Custody


Both parents share decision-making and/or physical custody of their children while they have joint or shared custody. If the parents are divorced, split, or no longer cohabiting, or if they have never lived together, joint custody can be granted.


The following are some examples of joint custody arrangements:

  • Custody is shared by both parents.

  • Physical custody is shared.

  • Judicial and physical custody is shared.

It is normal for couples who share physical custody to also share legal custody, although this is not always the case.


When joint custody is shared, parents usually work out a plan based on their work schedules, living arrangements, and the needs of their children. If the parents are both unable to agree on a timetable, the court will make one for them. The most popular trend is for the child to alternate weeks between the homes of both parents.


Such shared physical custody agreements include:

  • Months, years, or six-month cycles alternate.

  • Will also include weekends and holidays are spent with one parent, and weekdays are spent with the other.

  • "Birds nest custody," also known as "nesting," is a form of custody in which the infant stays in the family home while the parents alternate moving in and out. In this case, the parents have their own separate residences.


Is It Possible For Me To Have Physical Custody But Not Legal Custody?


You're probably aware that there are two forms of custody: physical and legal custody. They do not, however, have to be identical. For example, one parent can have sole physical custody while the other shares legal custody. Both legal and physical custody can be shared by both parents. One parent may have sole legal and physical custody of their child, while the other has none. When deciding on all forms of custody, the family court judge will decide what is in the best interest of the child.


When it comes to custody, do grandparents have any rights?


If one of the parents is legally eligible to take custody of the infant, grandparents are unlikely to get custody. Grandparents do, however, have visitation rights in certain cases. Under California law, a grandparent will ask the court for visitation with their grandchild if the following conditions are met:

  • A grandparent and grandchild had a prior relationship that "engendered a bond."

  • Grandparent visitation should strike a balance between the child's best interests and the parent's right to make decisions about the child.


Depending on the Parents' Status

  • Parents Who Have Divorced

  • If the child's parents split, the custody agreement is incorporated into the divorce settlement. The declaration specifies who the child will live with, how the child will be visited, and who will provide financial support for the child. We just want the best for the child and will never put him or her in danger. However, we do not want to deny any child access to their parents (unless there is a valid reason, e.g., abuse). When strategizing a custody case, we consider all options.

  • Parents who are not married

  • Most states automatically grant custody to the biological mother if the child's parents were never married. If the father seeks physical custody, he must take the necessary measures to be considered. While an unwed father is unlikely to gain custody from a good mother, he may have preference over friends, foster parents, or strangers who want to adopt his child.

Consider one of our prescreened California Lawyers in your California Attorney Search.


The Child's Best Interests


The court will have to make a decision based on the child's best interests when making a California child custody order. The following things will be considered by the court, in addition to any other factors it deems relevant:

  • The child's health, protection, and well-being

  • Any history of domestic violence by one parent or any other individual seeking custody of any of the following

  • any child to whom he or she is blood or affinity related, or with whom he or she has had a caring relationship

  • a friendship, no matter how short-lived

  • one of the parents

  • A relative, current partner, or cohabitant of the parent or person seeking custody, or a dating or marriage arrangement with the parent or person seeking custody.

The court can require substantial independent corroboration before considering allegations of abuse, such as written reports from law enforcement agencies, child protective services or other social welfare agencies, courts, medical facilities, or other public or private nonprofit organizations that provide services to victims of sexual assault or domestic violence.


Here are things to look at:

  • The type of interaction you have with both parents and how much time you spend with them.

  • The use of illicit controlled drugs on a regular basis, the abuse of alcohol on a regular basis, or the abuse of prescription controlled substances on a regular basis by either parent.

The court may first request independent corroboration, such as written reports from law enforcement authorities, courts, probation departments, social care agencies, medical facilities, recovery facilities, or other governmental agencies or nonprofit organizations that provide drug and alcohol addiction services, before addressing these charges.


Preferences of the Child


According to California law, if a child is mature enough to make an informed decision about custody, the courts must take the decision into account. While there is no legal requirement for a particular age, it makes sense that the older the child is, the more likely he or she will be able to make an informed decision.

Children over 14 years old, or children under 14 with adequate capacity to develop an intelligent preference as to child custody and visitation, are allowed to testify about their preference under California Family Code unless the court decides that it is not in the child's best interest to testify.

In fact, the court is more likely to rule that it is not in the best interests of a child to testify about his or her preference for one parent over the other. Since most family law judges are reluctant, if not outright hostile, to calling minor children to testify in court, a parent who makes such a request risks losing legitimacy.


Having said that, each case has its own set of circumstances, and your case can benefit from having your child testify.