Family Law

In general there are five areas to be determined in a divorce. Those five areas are child custody and visitation, child support, division of debt, division of assets and spousal support. Of the five general areas to resolve in a divorce, perhaps the most important in cases where there are children under the age of majority, is child custody and visitation rights. There are two types of child custody: legal custody and physical custody.

How Child Custody is Determined in Divorce
Deciding Child Custody

Legal Custody

Legal custody refers to the right to make critical decisions for your children, like healthcare, education and welfare. Both parents can jointly share legal custody, or can belong solely to one parent. In joint legal custody, both parents have the right to make decisions about their children, even if the parents do not agree on the decisions they make. However, if they don’t want to end up back in court they should keep communication open and a cooperative spirit concerning important decisions regarding their children.
Parents with legal custody can make decisions or choices about their children’s religious activities or institutions, psychiatric counseling or therapy needs. They can also determine, doctor, dentist, orthodontist or other health professionals and procedures, except in emergency situations. Custodial parents decide vacations, sports , summer camps, travel and where the children will live. Choosing who will have legal custody is a crucial decision to consider carefully when a divorcing couple have children.

Physical Custody

Physical custody is who your children live with. Physical custody can be joint, as when children alternate between parents, or custody can be assigned to one parent. Sole, or primary custody means the children live with one parent the majority of the time, and visit the other parent.
Joint physical custody does not mean that the children spend exactly half the time with each parent. It is too hard to split time in that exacting manner. The primary custodial parent is the parent who has the children more than half of the time.

A judge can give joint legal and sole physical custody, as well as other arrangements. If that happens, the parent who doesn’t have physical custody usually has visitation rights with the children.

Types of Visitation Orders

Visitation, or time share is how the parents will split time with the children. If a parent has the children less than half of the time, he or she will have visitation with the children. Visitation orders are based on the best interests of the children, parental situation and other factors.

Scheduled Visitation Order

Having detailed visitation plans can help prevent confusion and conflicts over who is supposed to have visitation when. A detailed schedule will cover who will have visitation with the child on holidays including mother’s day, father’s day, fourth of July, other holidays and vacations.

Supervised Visitation

A supervised visitation order protects the child when their safety and well-being require supervision during visits. Visits may be supervised by the other parent, another adult or professional agency. Supervised visitation can also be ordered in cases where a child and parent need time to become more familiar with each other. This is usually in situations where the parent and child haven’t seen each other for a long time. It helps ease the process of getting reacquainted.

Reasonable Visitation

The details of when the child or children will be with each parent may not be part of a reasonable visitation order. This type of visitation order is usually open ended. It allows the parents to work it out between them. Obviously, this only works when the parents get along well enough to be flexible and communicate with each other. Disagreements or misunderstandings of an open reasonable visitation can develop into issues between the parents with the children suffering in the end.

No Visitation

There are times when any visitation could be harmful to the child, even with supervision. In these cases, where it is not in the best interest of the child to have any contact with the children, the court may issue a no visitation order.

Normal Custody Determination

In California, either parent can have custody of the children, or the parents can share custody. Though the decision will be made by the judge, if the parents can agree on a parenting plan, the judge will usually approve the arrangement. When parents cannot agree, the judge will rule at a court hearing. If the judge must decide in a hearing, the parents will need to meet with a mediator from Family Court Services first.

The Hittelman Family law group, which includes skilled experienced attorneys Steven Hittelman and Hilary Martin, has mediation experience as well. We guide our clients through the custodial determination process from beginning to end. You can experience the HFLG difference too. Contact us or call (949) 210-3260 to learn more about how we can help you protect your greatest asset: your children.

The above article is written for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. To get the legal advice you need, please contact our office by clicking on the above link or call (949) 210-3260.