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An Overview Of Child Custody And Visitation In California

When parents are divorcing, one of their main concerns is often what will happen with their children. Many parents wish to continue a close and loving relationship with their kids, and they may be worried about how the divorce will affect that relationship. In California, parents can make a child custody and visitation agreement that details how they will share parenting time and present it to a judge for approval. If the parents cannot agree, however, a judge will make a child custody award based on the best interest of the child.

California child custody

There are two kinds of child custody in California. The first, legal custody, grants a parent the ability to make significant decisions regarding the child, such as his or her medical treatment, education and religious upbringing. The second, physical custody, means who the child lives with.

Legal custody may be shared between both parents, called joint legal custody, or it may be held by one parent, called sole legal custody. Physical custody also may be shared, or one parent may have sole, or primary, physical custody, in which the child lives mainly with one parent and the other parent may have visitation.

California visitation

Visitation, also called time sharing, describes how parents will share time with their child. Parents are encouraged to create a time sharing plan together, and they may use a mediator with California Family Court Services to help them reach an agreement on child custody and visitation.

The time sharing plan may detail visitation according to a schedule, listing the dates and times when the child will be with each parent. The time sharing plan also may declare “reasonable visitation,” in which times and dates for visitation are not specified; instead, it is an open-ended and flexible plan. A reasonable visitation schedule requires parents who are willing and able to work together and communicate well, and it may not be appropriate for all families.

If the parents cannot agree on a time sharing plan, a judge will make a child custody decision. When making a child custody determination, a judge considers several factors to make a decision that is in the best interest of the child. These factors include the child’s age and health, the child’s ties to his or her parents, home, school and community, the ability of each parent to care for the child, and any history of family violence or abuse.

Getting divorced can bring significant changes to a family, but parents can still maintain good relationships with their children. If you are thinking about getting divorced, contact a knowledgeable divorce attorney for more information and to represent your interests.

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