Joint Custody

Over 185 Years of Combined Experience in Family Law

What is Joint Custody?

Joint custody in a family law case is a legal arrangement where each parent agrees to a certain set of responsibilities for their child and the amount of time they will get to spend with the child. Many divorcing parents in Orange County prefer to mutually agree on joint custody and then submit their proposed agreement to court.

If the family court approves the joint custody agreement, it will issue a formal order. Joint custody agreements are often detailed because each parent’s responsibilities must be clear outlined to avoid any ambiguity or confusion later on. The custody time may be divided unevenly between the parents, so the agreement usually includes a schedule that meticulously specifies the days and time frames for each parent to spend with the child.

Courts Prefer Joint Custody

From the perspective of the child’s welfare, shared parenting is usually the best. Numerous research studies have been conducted to show that when children have sufficient access to both parents, they grow up to be emotionally more secure and tend to have healthier relationships.

An experienced child custody lawyer in Orange County may encourage you to consider joint custody, depending on your circumstances. Family law court judges also often recommend parents to work out joint custody arrangements on their own. Courts recognize that ultimately only the parents know what is best for them and their child and how they can best work out and manage their child’s upbringing.

Joint Legal Custody

Although physical custody may be sole or joint, but legal custody of the child is almost always joint. Both the custodial and the non-custodial parent have the legal right and responsibility to make joint decisions about key issues related to the child’s upbringing. In case of joint legal custody, the parents may have to make decisions together on the following issues:

  • Education – which school the child is going to attend.
  • Extra-curricular activities – what type of creative activities and events the child may pursue apart from academics.
  • Healthcare – when and where the child should receive medical treatment.
  • Religious instruction – what type of religious or cultural upbringing the child will have, including visits to a place of worship.

Any serious disagreements with regard to the child’s upbringing in case of joint legal custody can be settled with the court’s intervention. Your child custody attorney in Orange County can provide the best legal advice if you want the joint legal custody order to be modified.

Joint Physical Custody

Physical custody determines where the child will live. While the family law judges in Orange County emphasize on the importance of involving both parents in the child’s life, they also recognize that a 50-50 joint physical custody may be impractical in most cases. Therefore, they may encourage an arrangement where one parent gets the primary custody of the child, while the other parent gets visitation rights.

Sole physical custody is permitted only in very rare cases, where the court believes that the physical presence of one parent is detrimental to the child’s welfare. Only when there is strong evidence that one parent has posed a threat to the child’s well-being or acted in a violent or abusive manner with the child, the court may award sole physical custody to the other parent.

Benefits and Limitations of Joint Custody

Here are some of the pros and cons of joint custody in California from the perspective of the child as well as the parents:


In joint custody, the co-parents will be compelled to keep their communication channels open in order to make combined decisions for the child. It may initially cause hiccups or delays in reaching the decisions, but in the long run this arrangement will lead to best decisions for the child.

Secondly, the children feel more secure when they know that their parents are working together to make important decisions for them. Collaborative decisions will almost always have better outcomes in the long run for the child. At the same time, the involvement of both parents often improves discipline with regard to meals, fitness and hygiene, bedtime, study time, and a plenitude of other lifestyle choices for the child. 


The initial phase in joint custody may be challenging for both parents because the feelings of hurt and anger may be still be fresh after the divorce. Sometimes even in the long run, it may be tough to make collaborative decisions for the child if one or both of the parents are unwilling to put the child’s best interests before their own.

Co-parents sometimes complain that the very reasons for which the divorce occurred in the first place (distrust, manipulative behavior, dominating the decisions, irresponsible actions, blaming the other side for everything, failure to resolve problems, verbal abuse) come into play in joint custody as well. One parent may try to misuse the system by forcing the other to agree to something just because they share joint custody.

Seek Help from an Accomplished Child Custody Attorney

Joint custody agreement is one of the most critical aspects of your divorce if minor children are involved. For the sake of your child’s welfare and your own peace, you need to ensure that the joint custody arrangement is reached to your satisfaction.

With the backing of a capable and skilled child custody attorney in Orange County, you can develop the right legal strategy and protect your rights as a parent. Your lawyer will help you achieve the appropriate joint custody agreement that fulfills your goals, and if needed at any time in the future, they will also help you obtain a custody modification order if your situation changes.

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