The Petition – Part 7 (a), (b), and (c) – Custody & Visitation

November 20th, 2014

In a dissolution proceeding, the Court has jurisdiction (or power) to make custody and visitation orders.

Joint legal custody means that both parents shall share the right and the responsibility to make the decisions relating to the health, education, and welfare of a child. Fam. Code § 3003.

Joint physical custody means that each of the parents shall have significant periods of physical custody. Joint physical custody shall be shared by the parents in such a way so as to assure a child of frequent and continuing contact with both parents, subject to Sections 3011 and 3020. Fam. Code § 3004.

Sole legal custody means that one parent shall have the right and the responsibility to make the decisions relating to the health, education, and welfare of a child. Fam. Code § 3006.

Sole physical custody means that a child shall reside with and be under the supervision of one parent, subject to the power of the court to order visitation. Fam. Code § 3007.

Does “joint legal custody” require agreement on every single parenting decision?  In short (and as was likely true in the marriage), no.  The parent with the current physical custody of the child (in other words, the child the parent is with) can make the every day decisions for the child.  Emergency care?  Yes.  Switching schools?  No.  Pierced ears?  No.  The latter decisions require joint agreement, and if the parties cannot reach an agreement, the Court may be called in to make a decision.  The Court (or the parties) can also craft “joint legal custody” orders to specify what actions require joint agreement and which do not.

Visitation can also be described as the timeshare, or the time the child spends with each parent.  The timeshare could be a week-on/week-off, alternating weekends, 2/2/3, or 2/2/5 schedule.  The timeshare depends on the parties and what is in the best interest of the children.  Different schedules may be appropriate depending on the age of the children.  Sample calendars of difference timeshare schedules are located here.

Most Courts will advise parties that it is best for parties, and the children, to have the parents reach an agreement on the custody and visitation schedule.  If the parties cannot do so between themselves or with the help of mediation, the Court will make a decision focusing on frequent and continuing contact with both parents and the best interests of the children.

If you have questions about custody and/or visitation, talk to an experienced family law attorney.