Child Custody


Legal custody of a child is often a misunderstood concept. When we think about child custody, we typically think of it in terms of time—the parent who keeps the child for a majority of the time is said to have custody.

In reality, however, child custody does not refer to any of the time you get to spend with your child. It refers, instead, to the right to make legal decisions about your child. Should your child be vaccinated? Should your child attend a private religious school or public school? Would your child benefit from counseling, medical treatment, or braces? If you don’t have legal custody, you don’t have the right to consent to medical treatment, veto the child’s attendance at a religious school, or make any other major decisions regarding your child.

Trying to understand the ins and outs of child custody laws in California can be disorienting. If you are facing a custody battle or want to learn more about your rights as a parent, consult family law firm, Julie Clark Attorney at Law. Our firm will work to make sure your rights will be protected and your child will receive the best possible outcome for his or her welfare.

How Will My Custody Case Be Decided?

In all custody cases, the court looks out for the best interest of the child. As such, the court will take into consideration a variety of factors, including:

  • ability of each parent to care for the child,
  • income and employment of each parent,
  • amount of time each parent spends with the child,
  • nature of the relationship between each parent and the child,
  • any history of drug or alcohol abuse, violence, or other negative behaviors,
  • age of the child and any health considerations.

Each of the above considerations will help the court to determine who should have custody of the child. There are generally two types of child custody that can be granted in California: joint custody and sole custody.

What is Joint Custody?

Joint custody is the most common type of custody granted by the courts. With joint custody, both parents have legal custody of the child. This does not mean that the child has to spend exactly half of their time with each parent—simply that both parents are able to make decisions about the welfare of the child. Sometimes, the parent with whom the child spends more time is referred to as the primary custodial parent, but both parents still retain legal custody of the child.

Parents who have joint custody of their child do not have to agree on every decision regarding the child’s upbringing. In fact, with joint custody, each parent has the individual ability to make decisions for the child. For example, if a decision needed to be made regarding medical treatment, one of the parents would be able to make that decision without the other parent. Nonetheless, it is important that both parents work together as much as possible in making important decisions, as they could find themselves back in court if problems arise due to a lack of communication.

Oftentimes, parents who share joint custody of their children will need to develop a parenting plan. This plan may detail how much time the child will spend with each parent, a schedule for when the child will visit each parent, and any contingency plans—such as what should happen if the child becomes ill and cannot see one of the parents as scheduled. Having a parenting plan can help a family deal with problems and conflicts before they become too serious.

Joint custody is often the best option for families in which both parents are capable of caring for the child and looking out for his or her best interest. However, if one of the parents could be considered a danger to the child or is incapable of providing care, it may be best for the other parent to pursue sole custody of the child.

What is Sole Legal Custody?

Unless a parent is disabled because of absence, drug addiction, alcoholism, serious mental illness, or has serious criminal convictions, the court usually grants legal custody to both parents. If you believe that the other parent is not capable of exercising legal custody in the best interest of your child, or if someone is alleging that you should not have legal custody, you should consult a family law attorney to learn whether you should seek or oppose an order of sole legal custody.

Sole legal custody has serious implications for the relationship between a parent and his or her child. A parent who has sole custody of his or her child may make decisions about the child’s upbringing and lifestyle without any input from the other parent. The parent with sole custody may even move away with the child unless the parent without custody can prove that the move would harm the child in some way.

Sole custody is typically the best option if one of the parents is unfit to care for the child. This type of custody removes the rights of one of the parents to make decisions about the child’s future, and may even prevent that parent from having visitation rights.

How Does Child Support Affect Custody?

Child support and child custody are interconnected in many practical ways, but they are still separate court orders. As such, a parent who stops paying child support still retains custody and visitation rights-often to the surprise of the other parent!

The amount of time a parent spends with a child does have an affect on the amount of child support the parent is ordered to pay, however. If you are interested in learning more about how a child support order may affect you, click here.

Contact Julie Clark, Attorney at Law

Child custody is a sensitive and difficult subject, which is why it’s important for you to have a compassionate and skilled family attorney. You shouldn’t have to face the legal complexities and emotional stress of a custody case alone. To find out how our firm can help you obtain and keep custody of your children in Hemet, Temecula, San Jacinto, Murrieta, Winchester, or surrounding California cities, contact us or request an appointment today.