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Understanding the basic legal terms regarding child custody

In California, parents may share custody, or custody may be granted to one parent. If both parents have negotiated a parenting plan, a court will give its approval in most cases. If the parents cannot agree, the judge will make a determination regarding parenting time. However, the parents may be required to meet with a mediator before the judge will make the final decision.

There are two types of child custody, legal and physical custody. A parent who has legal custody is allowed to make major decisions for the children such as education, religion and health care. The children will live with the parent who is granted physical custody.

Every family is unique and so child custody arrangements can vary widely. Parents can share legal custody while one parent has physical custody. It is possible for parents to share both legal and physical custody or one parent can have sole legal and physical custody. In most cases, the parent who does not have physical custody will be granted visitation rights. To avoid confusion and conflict, many courts and parents devise a visitation schedule that outlines when the children will spend time with each parent. However, it is possible, and in many cases preferable, to have an open-ended visitation order that allows parents to work out visitation on an ongoing basis.

A California family law attorney can help a parent negotiate a child custody agreement that works for the family and is in the best interests of the child. If the parents cannot come to agreement on some issues regarding child custody, the attorney can help to protect the client's parental rights before the judge who is making the decision.

Source: California Courts, "Custody and Parenting Time (Visitation) Orders", August 27, 2014

Source: California Courts, "Custody and Parenting Time (Visitation) Orders", August 27, 2014

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