Child Custody | Visitation
If there are children from the marriage, the divorce decree will specify who gets custody of the children. When one spouse is awarded custody of the children, the other will be awarded visitation rights. If the spouses are able to work out an agreement on custody and visitation on their own or with the assistance of their lawyers or a mediator, the court will incorporate the agreement into the divorce decree. If the spouses cannot resolve the issue, the court will decide the issue according to the state law.
Physical and Legal Custody
Physical Custody in California. Physical custody refers to where the children physically live. Legal custody refers to the authority to make decisions for a child, such as: Where a child should attend school and/or medical decisions.
Joint physical custody (also called shared physical custody, shared residential custody, shared parenting time, etc.) means that your child spends substantial time living with both parents, and both have equal responsibility to physically care for the child. Parents agree that it's in the best interest of their child.
This type of custody arrangement is generally used in situations where there is more than one child from the marriage. One spouse gets custody of some of the children and the other gets custody of the remaining children. Courts do not look at this arrangement favorably as it involves separating siblings.
Factors Affecting Custody
In case of older children, the children’s preference too can play an important role. Here are some of the factors that courts generally consider when deciding child custody:
- Health (mental and physical) condition of the parents
- Child’s preference (in the case of older children)
- Need for continuity
- Cultural and religious norms
- Educational requirements of the child
- Child’s sex and age
- Child’s Relationship with other members of the household
- Child’s relationship with the extended family of both parents
- Parental suitability of each parent
- History of abuse
Besides the above factors, the courts tend to favor the parent who demonstrates that he or she has been the primary caretaker of the child during the marriage. The bond between the child and the primary caretaker is a key factor. For children, this bond is important for successful mental and emotional development and growth. To determine who is the primary caretaker, the court will consider the role of both parents in the following activities associated with the child:
- Dressing, grooming, and bathing
- Planning and preparation of meals
- Buying clothes and laundry responsibility
- Medical care arrangements
- Encouraging the child to participate in extracurricular activities
- Teaching the child to read, write and count