Updated: Sep 4
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 have equal rights and duties to make critical choices regarding the children's health, education, and welfare. Or,
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 parents. 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.
Supervised visitation: This is used when the protection and well-being of the children demand that you, another adult, or a specialist organization monitor visits with the other parent. For more information about supervised visitation, click here. In situations where a child and a parent need time to become more acquainted with each other, such as if a parent has not seen the child long and needs to slowly get to know each other again, supervised visitation is often used.
No visitation: This option is used when visiting the parent, even with supervision, which may be detrimental to the children physically or emotionally. In these situations, the parent would not have any interaction with the children in the children's best interest.
The law on custody and visitation decisions
The law says that according to what is in the "best interest of the child," judges must grant custody.
The court would determine what is best for a child in order to decide:
The child's age,
The child's welfare,
The emotional links between the child and the parents,
The parent's ability to care for the baby,
Any history of violence or drug abuse in the family and any history of
The baby's links to education, home, and his or her culture.
Courts do not automatically grant custody to your mother or father, regardless of your children's age or sex. Only because you were never married to the other parent or because you or the other parent have a physical disability or a particular lifestyle, religious conviction, or sexual orientation, the courts will not revoke your right to custody or visitation.
The judge would certainly also grant child support orders in addition to custody orders. Bear in mind that a child support order is different from child custody and visitation, so you should not refuse to let the other parent see the kids only because they do not make the child support payments requested by the court. And just because the other parent doesn't let you see your children, you should not refuse to pay child support. However, child support and custody are connected because each parent's amount of time with the kids can influence the amount of child support.
Father Rights In California
When helping dads manage custody and visits in family court, one of the first things we do is write down all the specifics of their case and set standards for the process. We smash many common assumptions in doing so and facts about California child custody for fathers. Here are the top ten facts that fathers should know about custody and visitation while planning to step through a divorce that includes kids.
California Child Custody Fact # 1: In California, family courts do not side with the mother all the time. Because of their gender, dads are not disadvantaged. The law specifically specifies that due to the sex of the parent, judges shall not choose a parent as custodian. Judges generally say, I'm starting at 50/50-tell me why it shouldn't be that way, and then continue.
California Child Custody Fact # 2: Dads are not automatically entitled to 50-50 custody or any custody order. Similarly, in the family code, there is nothing that automatically grants fathers custody solely because they are the father. During a divorce, the norm the court uses is the child's best interest. The court maintains that regular and continuous interaction with both parents is in the infant's best interest. What is associated with regular and ongoing contact? This is specific to each family's case and is set out in a parenting plan decided by parents in the divorce process and often litigated.
California Child Custody Fact # 3: Judges in family tribunals are not without prejudice. Each human being, including even the most respectable, reputable, and competent judges of the family court, has prejudices. There is a reason why the Best Family Law Attorney in Los Angeles pays attention to which judges preside over their cases. A good Child Custody Attorney in Los Angeles addresses your case's details in a way such that prejudices do not become decisive factors for their clients.
California Child Custody Fact # 4: One of the reasons divorce proceedings go to trial in custody. A small number of divorce proceedings go to trial, and one of the difficulties that couples can battle is in court in custody. Parents who are separating are expected to go to mediation in custody and develop a parenting plan that sets out custody and visitation, separates parental roles, and determines child-related decision-making. The judge can give parents (and their attorneys) another chance on the day of the trial to decide for themselves before delivering a ruling if they can not agree on mediation.
California Child Custody Fact # 5: There's just as strong a visiting order as to how you would exercise it. Many parents have a disconnect between the order they want for custody and visitation and the reality of exercising that order. Dads with an intense work schedule will not have the same order as a parent who was the main caretaker. It has absolutely zero to do with gender and all to do with pre-separation home roles and the reality of each parent's schedule as it relates to caring for the kids.
California Child Custody Fact # 6: In court, parental responsibilities before separation are important. The courts do not want a divorce process to interrupt the children's lives and correctly consider what parenting roles were like before the parents broke up. That said, the most important deciding factor in child custody during a divorce is always the child's best interest, and the court will rule accordingly. The court also considers how parents split roles before splitting to mitigate damage and weighs it in the light of what is in the best interest of the child going forward.
California Child Custody Fact # 7: Constructively, be able to co-parent with your ex-wife. You do this both for your children and for yourself. Parents who welcome regular and existing interaction between children and the other parent are seen favorably by the courts. Even if your ex-spouse is unreasonable, being civil and polite will help you secure beneficial improvements to your order should you seek them. Document it all and do it as though a family court judge were going to read it.
California Child Custody Fact # 8: A final order for custody is not the end of the story. We say to dads from time to time: ask for it if you want more time with your children. When a child may profit, the courts are in favor of maximizing parental involvement. If you aim to spend as much time as you can with the kids, really get involved in their lives. It's so easy. Go to appointments with their doctor, school events, and extracurriculars. Know their sizes of clothes. For example, if a stay-at-home, mom starts working, when circumstances change, that provides the dad with an opportunity to change custody and visitation to fit his involvement in the children's lives.
California Child Custody Fact # 9: To "undo" errors in family court is complicated and costly. Preventing something from happening is often better than undoing something that is already a court order and is. If you are considering a divorce in California is the best option for your situation, consult with a Los Angeles Family Law Attorney on a game plan that directs the process towards your objectives, you will still save time, tension, and money.
California Child Custody Fact # 10: Do not navigate the system without a family law attorney. The truths we outline here are easy for dads to conduct, but it is not productive to effectively manage family court. What you do not know, you don't know.
Our pre-screened Family Lawyer in Los Angeles represents a lot of fathers who originally attempted to represent themselves and obtained unfavorable orders. They invested a lot less money than they would have by enlisting quality legal counsel from the get-go, to unravel a failed attempt at self-representation.
How To Find Honest And Reputable Child Custody Lawyers In Los Angeles
The consequences of a divorce can be permanent and affect your personal and professional life. You should immediately consult with a pre-screened Los Angeles divorce attorney with experience in California family law.
You can submit a request online 24 hours a day. Free case review within 15 minutes.
By calling the 24-hour lawyer referral hotline at 1-661-310-7999