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Introduction To Parenting Laws In California | Parenting Time Attorney

When a married couple choose to go their own separate ways, there are many questions and many issues left unresolved. Who gets the home? Should it be sold? What about the pets? What to do with all the furniture? How to divide the monetary assets? What about the cars? Making decisions about material property that the couple owned when together are difficult but they pale in comparison to the decisions involving children. If you live in California and have children and are going through a separation, it’s important to get acquainted with child custody laws in the state.  If the couple have split on amicable terms then they may be able to decide for themselves whom the children should live with, they’ll address child support issues, parenting time issues and all other issues pertaining to the child and their relationship with each parent.

In some cases, they may need the assistance of a mediator or a lawyer. They are then able to reach an amicable resolution for any outstanding issues. However, if such decisions cannot be mutually agreed to by both parties then it is up to the court to intervene and make a determination. Family courts in California consider a number of factors before granting either sole or joint custody to a parent but it is imperative for parents who wish to file for child custody in California to first become familiar with the laws in the state.


In making a custody determination, there are a number of different factors that a judge has to consider, and a number of different types of custody that is addressed. There are two basic categories of custody:

  • Physical custody – (residence of the child)
  • Legal custody – (making important life decisions for the child)

Those two categories can exist in any incarnation for a particular couple with a combination of custodial responsibilities going to either party.

One parent may be given sole physical custody of the child with the other party having visitation rights. This is the most widely used physical custody arrangement which grants each parent the ability to maintain a healthy relationship with the child. Even if one parent has been granted sole physical custody the parents often share legal custody which means that they will both have the right to make life decisions on behalf of the child. The term “legal custody” covers many different aspects of the child’s life, including:

  • Religious observance
  • Health care
  • Other matters affecting the child’s welfare and well-being
  • Participation in extracurricular activities
  • School selection and other education-related matters


California law declares that any determinations made for custody or parenting time must be for the child’s benefit. This is known as the “best interests of the child” standard. This seemingly vague term is defined by each state differently but there are a number of common factors that influence the court’s decision-making process. These include:

  • Age and gender of child
  • Mental and physical health of both parents
  • Religious/ethnic/cultural preferences
  • Stability of home environment
  • Parent’s level of engagement in the child’s life
  • Input of the child (applicable at a certain age)
  • Social support system of parents
  • Parental history of criminal activity, substance abuse or mental/sexual abuse
  • Educational opportunities for the child

Family courts in California prefer shared custody for both parents because it is deemed to be in the best interests of the child. If you are involved in a divorce with children in California then it is advisable to consult with a qualified Walnut Creek Divorce Lawyer today.

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