Legal and Physical Custody of a Child
Before determining which parent will be the custodial parent of a child, the court first makes determinations on the legal and physical custody of the child. Legal custody refers to the parent’s ability to make decisions on the day-to-day care and upbringing of the child. This includes decisions about the child’s religious upbringing, schooling, extracurricular activities, medical treatment, and more. In some cases, parents share legal custody, and other times one parent retains full legal custody over the child.
In addition, the court will also make a determination about the physical custody of the child. Physical custody refers to where the child physically resides and with which parent. Physical custody can be sole custody with one parent or joint custody where the child splits time between both parents’ homes. Joint custody does not mean that the child must split the time between parents equally, but that the child stays with both parents throughout the year.
Who & What is the Custodial Parent?
The determination of the custodial parent depends on where the child spends most of his or her physical custody time. Whichever parent has the child more often is considered the custodial parent, and the parent with whom the child spends less time is the noncustodial parent in joint custody situations. This also applies in sole custody situations in which the parent who retains custody of the child is considered the custodial parent.
The parent determined to be the custodial parent of the child typically has more influence and authority in making decisions about the child’s life. In addition, in most situations, the noncustodial parent is ordered to pay child support to the custodial parent because the assumption is that the custodial parent bears more of the costs for the child since the child spends more time in his or her home. If you have concerns about how your minor child will be raised after a divorce or questions about paying child support, it would be in your best interests to retain an attorney and fight for the right to be named the custodial parent in your case.
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Determining custody and visitation issues for a minor child can be fraught with emotions for the parents and the child in a divorce. When determining custody and visitation in the California family courts, the judge in the case will make a determination about which parent will be the custodial parent of the child. But what does it mean to be named the custodial or noncustodial parent, and how does that affect your obligations to care for and support your child? An experienced attorney in your area can help with your child custody determination questions.
If you have additional questions about being named the custodial parent in your joint custody case in California, contact one of the family law attorneys at Kearney | Baker today at 626-768-2945.