In California, there are two types of child custody that parents can have – physical custody and legal custody. These custody orders can be granted jointly or to a single parent. Other issues may arise when a court orders a change to child custody. For instance, custody arrangements can have a significant effect on the amount that a court will award for child support.

Physical Custody

Physical custody means the parents provide daily care to the child. When the court orders joint physical custody is typically synonymous with a 50-50 parenting time arrangement but it is not required for there to be 50-50 parenting time for there to be joint physical custody. So long as each parent has significant periods of time with the children, joint physical custody is appropriate. Typically joint physical custody generally has to be more than 35% and typically 40% or more but realize currently there are not any rules regarding this issue.

Legal Custody

Legal custody means the parents share the decision making responsibility regarding the child’s health, safety, education and welfare. If parents are awarded joint legal custody of a child, the court requires the parents to communicate and co-parent. Neither parent can make decisions that are important in a child’s life without involving the other parent and obtaining the other parent’s consent. These include decisions regarding health and medical, education, extracurricular activities, and anything that is of significance to the child. Even attendance in religious activities can be covered under a joint legal custody order.

However, joint legal custody does not necessarily prevent the judge from making orders over certain aspects of the child’s life. Often times, when one parent is far better equipped to make these critical decisions or the other parent is simply unfit to deal with such issues the judge will evaluate whether joint legal custody is the appropriate order.

Custody issues can be complex even where both parents agree. It is important to have a skilled family law attorney to help you through the process and evaluate how changing custody can affect other issues in your family law case. Contact us today for a free consultation.