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Child custody matters are of high importance to many people. Whenever there are children are involved in a family law dispute, most parents just want to make sure their children are cared for and protected. Our office can help parents in child custody disputes amicably agree to a parenting schedule when it is possible, or to fight the issue in court.

Under California law, judges will consider what is in the child’s best interests when making child custody decisions. Some of the factors judges consider are the child’s age, health, emotional ties to each parent, ties to school and community, and any history of family abuse or neglect. 

If a person is not in the legal field, he or she might not know that there are two types of child custody that parents can either agree to amongst themselves or be determined by the court. They are the following:

  • Legal Custody

  • Physical Custody

Legal custody refers to the parent’s legal authority to make decisions about the child or children’s education, health, extracurricular activities, and upbringing. Just like physical custody legal custody can be sole (one parent) or joint (both parents). If the parents share joint legal custody, but they cannot agree on a course of action for the child, the disagreement could be resolved by a judge, or through mediation. 

Physical custody refers to which parent the child or children live with. If the parents are awarded joint physical custody, children can live with both parents for significant periods of time. However, usually, there will be a primary custodial parent which the child or children will use for school purposes. If a parent is awarded sole physical custody, the other parent is usually awarded visitation or parenting time with the child or children. 

Just like many issues in family law, custody orders are not permanent. As time passes, the children's or parent’s needs or lives may change. If either parent believes the current custody order does not serve the child or children’s best interest anymore, he or she can request a change. This is usually done by either parent filing a Request for Order for a hearing to get orders to pertaining custody and visitation of the parties’ children. The way custody/visitation hearings are set can vary from county to county and local court rules should be consulted. Mist counties set hearing regarding establishing or modifying custody and/or visitation and the parents are ordered to attend mediation approximately one week before the hearing. If the parents cannot agree to a proposed change, the disagreement could be decided by a judge, guided by what is in the child or children’s best interests. The judge may also consider the memorandum and report drafted by the mediator during mediation.