When there are minor children, there may be issues relating to custody and visitation which have to be resolved in the dissolution action. Generally, if the parents can agree on a custody and time share arrangement, that is preferable to a court-imposed arrangement. agreement can be drawn up in writing as a part of the marital settlement agreement. However, sometimes parents do not agree on what the custody and visitation should be going forward after the parties separate and no longer live in the same household.
Generally parents share joint legal custody of their child. Legal custody refers to the parents’ decision-making authority with regard to the health, education and welfare of the child. It includes choice of schools, religious upbringing, health and medical decisions, and the like. When the parents share joint legal custody, they share the ability to make those decisions. The majority of parents do share joint legal custody, unless there is some serious reason not to do so, such as severe substance abuse that impairs judgment, a history of physical abuse, serious criminal background or domestic violence. In those cases, the responsible parent may request an award of sole legal custody from the court.
Physical custody refers to the parent with whom the child resides. If the parents share joint physical custody, they will usually have a 50/50 time share arrangement. Alternatively, one parent may have sole physical custody, which means that parent is the primary custodial parent with whom the child lives the majority of the time. The other parent will have a reasonable visitation, or time share, schedule.
If the parties cannot agree on the custodial arrangement, the court will generally look at what the status quo has been for them. In other words, who was the primary caregiver of the children; who took them to their medical appointments, school meetings, etc. California law recognizes that it is in the child’s best interests that they have frequent and continuing contact with both parents.
With years of practical experience in this area, Linda can assist her clients in arriving at the best arrangement for their child, either through the court system or through out-of-court settlement and resolution.