Everything You Need to Know About California Child Custody Laws

Updated: Apr 22

Read Before Filing Child Custody Claims In California


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.