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What types of custody arrangements are there in California?

Whether you're a parent dissolving your marriage or simply ending a relationship, chances are that the biggest concern on your mind right now is who will maintain custody of your child and what this will mean for the other parent. If so, then you're not alone.

Child custody is often a major concern for separating or divorcing parents. Both parents are typically eager to spend as much time with their child as possible, which leads to concerns about child custody arrangements. As a result, many parents find themselves asking the question we've posed above:

What types of custody arrangements are there in California?

In California, as the Judicial Branch of California explains, there are four types of custody:

  • Sole legal custody
  • Joint legal custody
  • Sole physical custody
  • Joint physical custody

Legal custody encompasses the important decisions made regarding a child such as where they will go to school, what religion they will practice and other matters concerning the child's welfare. Physical custody, on the other hand, refers to the placement of the child, meaning where the child will live.

Sole custody vs. joint custody

At this time, it's important to note the difference between sole custody and joint custody:

Sole custody, as the name suggests, means that only one parent, sometimes referred to as the custodial parent, is allowed to make decisions concerning the child. This is also the only parent the child lives with. Joint custody, on the other hand, means that both parents share in the decision making process and the child shares time between each parent's household.

How legal and physical custody work together

It's important to know that custody arrangements in California are always a mixture of the four types above, with one part referring to where the child will live (physical custody) and the other part concerning how decision making regarding the child will proceed (legal custody).

While most California judges prefer joint legal and physical custody arrangements, it may be necessary in some cases to award sole physical custody and joint legal custody. This all depends on what the judge feels is in the best interests of the child.

Seeking help with a child custody arrangement

Even though it's possible for parents to work out child custody arrangements on their own, it's sometimes necessary to seek legal aid when navigating this complex area of law. In addition to protecting their child's best interests, parents should make sure that the custody arrangement they agree to is also in line with their parental rights. Having a lawyer at your side can ensure both of these pieces are present in your custody arrangement.

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