Physical Custody

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Physical Custody

Physical custody in the legal context of a divorce refers to the shared time a minor child will spend with each parent on a long-term basis. Physical custody in Orange County can be joint or sole. Family courts often award joint physical custody because in their opinion it is in the child’s best interests to spend time with each parent. 

In joint physical custody, each parent gets the opportunity to be physically present and be more directly involved in the child’s upbringing. However, it does not mean that the shared time between parents will be split equally. The courts usually want to ensure that the child’s daily life, schooling and extra-curricular activities go through minimal disruption. Therefore one parent may get the primary physical custody (who will provide daily care for the child).

Who Gets the Child’s Primary Custody?

Even when the child’s physical custody is shared between parents, the family court judge in Orange County may name one of them as the primary custodial parent. The majority of the child’s physical time will be spent with this parent. The primary custodial parent’s selection will depend on various factors, such as the role and involvement of the parent in the child’s life.

While many people mistakenly assume that a mother automatically gets the primary custody, it is not a fact. Nowadays many mothers are highly involved with their jobs or other professional activities outside the home, while many fathers are more deeply involved with the child’s upbringing.

The following factors will influence the court’s decision:

  • The work schedules of the parents – if a parent’s work schedule is flexible enough to allow them to care for the child when the other parent is busy, the judge may prefer that over the possibility of leaving the child with a babysitter or in a daycare.
  • Each parent’s personal lifestyle and their individual financial ability to meet the child’s essential needs.
  • The relationship and emotional bonding of the child with each parent.
  • The age, health, and developmental and emotional needs of the child.

The judge will objectively evaluate all the above-listed factors to determine who gets the child’s primary custody. But the predominant factor that will influence the judge’s decision is the child’s bonding and relationship with each parent. 

Sole Physical Custody

In exceptional situations, the court may determine that one parent is unfit or unable to provide physical care to the child. For instance, one parent may be traveling most of the time for work and may not be able to provide regular care and attention to the child. Looking at the best interests of the child, the court may make the other parent the sole custodial parent. 

If one parent gets the sole physical custody, it does not take away the other parent’s right to be involved in the child’s life or spend time with the child. The non-custodial parent could get supervised or unsupervised visitation rights as well as have the legal custody of child enabling them to have a say in vital decisions related to the child’s upbringing.

The non-custodial parent in Orange County will usually be ordered to contribute by way of child support payments.

Prevailing Trends in Child Custody Arrangements

At one time, the family courts preferred to award joint physical custody, where the child would spend one week or one month each with a parent by rotation. These types of arrangements are now increasingly uncommon because the lifestyles have become more demanding, and children’s schooling, routine activities and involvement with peers and friends can get disrupted with such “equal” sharing of physical custody.

In contemporary custody arrangements in Orange County, one parent typically gets the physical custody, while the other parent gets visitation rights and shared legal custody. The non-custodial parent in this arrangement will usually get to spend exclusive physical time with the child on every alternate weekend, some of the holiday breaks, and several weeks during the child’s annual summer vacation.

Consult with a Compassionate and Competent Child Custody Attorney

Physical custody arrangements are often hard on the child because of their time gets split between parents. These arrangements can be equally hard on the parents because of the emotional challenges involved. Work with a dedicated child custody lawyer in Orange County who can build a strong case to obtain the best possible decision from the court for your child’s physical custody.

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