Learn about child custody in California and father's rights in family law
Any parent can have custody of the children in California, or the parents can share custody. The judge makes the final custody and visitation decision but will generally accept the agreement (the parenting plan) decided by both parents. The judge can decide at a court hearing if the parents can not reach an agreement. Usually, the judge will not decide on custody and visitation until after a mediator from Family Court Services has visited the parents.
Child custody in California
Two kinds of child custody exist:
Legal custody means who makes important decisions (such as health care, education, and welfare) and who makes important decisions about your children.
Physical custody, meaning who your kids are living with.
It can be legal custody:
Joint, where both parents equal rights and duties to make critical choices regarding the children's health, education, and welfare.
Sole, where only one of the parents has the right and the duty to make important decisions about the children's health, education, and welfare.
Parents with legal custody make their children's decisions or choices:
School or Caring for Children
Religious events or establishments
Psychiatric, social, or other needs for mental health advice or counseling
Doctor, dentist, orthodontist, or another specialist in the field of health (except in emergencies)
Sports, summer camp, vacations, or extracurricular events
Residence (where the kids will be living)
Parents who share equal legal custody both have the right to make decisions about these aspects of their children's lives, but not all decisions must be decided upon. A decision may be taken by either parent alone. But both parents should interact with each other and participate in making decisions together to avoid having issues and winding up back in court.
It can be physical custody:
Joint custody, meaning the kids are staying with both parents.
Sole or primary custody, which indicates that most of the time, the children live with one parent and typically visit the other parent.
Joint physical custody does not indicate that the kids would spend precisely half the time with each parent. Generally, children spend a little more time with one parent than the other because it is too difficult to accurately divide the time in half. If one parent has more than half the time for the baby, then that parent is often called the primary custodial parent."
A judge also gives joint legal custody to parents, but not joint physical custody. This suggests that both parents share the responsibility for making major decisions in the children's lives, but most of the time, the children live with one parent. Usually, the parent who has no physical custody has visitation with the baby.
Forms of orders for visitation in California
The plan on how parents spend time with children is visitation (also called "time-share"). The children are visited by a parent who has the children less than half the time. Depending on the children's best interests, the condition of the parents, and other factors, visitation orders are complex. Visitation, in general, can be:
Visitation according to a schedule: In general, it allows parents and children to have comprehensive visitation schedules to avoid disputes and uncertainty, so parents and courts also have a visitation schedule defining the days in a week and specific times when each parent will be with the children. Holidays, special events (such as birthdays, mother's day, father's day, and other important family dates), and holidays can be included in visiting schedules.
Fair visitation: There is not always a reasonable visitation order with specifics as to when the children will be with and parent. These instructions are usually open-ended and allow the parents to work it out between them. When parents get along very well and can be flexible and interact well, this form of visiting arrangement can work. But if there are still conflicts or misunderstandings, this kind of open schedule may cause problems between the parents, due to which the children can suffer.