What Is Legal and Physical Custody In California?

By Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

Top Orange County divorce mediators; California divorce mediatorsCalifornia child custody laws allow for both joint and sole physical and legal custody of the child. Both parents can seek these types of custody of their child. The family law judge hearing a child custody case cannot give preference to a parent depending on the gender of the parent or the child. Giving arbitrary sole custody is also not allowed. All decisions need to be based on the law and other related facts.

Joint physical custody

It means both parents have equal control and rights over the child. All decisions regarding the child are taken jointly. Generally speaking, the parenting time should be divided equally but this is not an absolute requirement. It can be 60-40 also as long as the child gets to spend quality time with each parent.

Joint legal custody

It means the parents have no other option but to take decisions jointly regarding the health, education, safety and welfare of the child. It includes religious and any extracurricular activities of the child. It is like a mandate for communicating and co-parenting. One parent cannot take any decision about the child without involving or getting the consent from the other parent.

But sometimes the family law judge can let one parent have the sole right to take decisions for the child regarding certain issues. Form 341(E) of the California judicial council states all rules regarding joint legal custody.

Sole physical custody

It means that only one parent has exclusive right over the custody of the child. He or she (the mother or the father) is the primary caretaker and custodial of the child. But it does not mean that the non-custodial parent does not get any parenting time or visitation rights. If one parent gets sole physical custody the other parent gets visitation.

Sole legal custody

It gives a parent the sole right to take decisions regarding the child’s education, health and welfare. But the parent with sole legal custody does not hold exclusive rights over the child. The parent with visitation rights has supervisory rights and responsibilities when he or she is with the child.

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, What is Divorce Mediation