California Child Custody Guide

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California Child Custody Guide


California child custody arrangements can be complex and difficult – but they don’t need to be abominable. Generally speaking, the health and welfare of the child is a shared concern among both parties in a divorce, and determining what is in the child’s best interest is paramount.

Most of the time, the courts will order shared legal custody for both parents, as long as they are able to work together to make decisions for the child and both parents are capable of making such decisions, and it is not in the child’s best interest for only one parent to have custody. However, there are many other factors considered in California child custody laws.

Every situation is different, but typically the court will look at:

  • The age of the child;
  • The health of the child;
  • The ability of each parent to care for the child;
  • The child’s ties to their home, school, and community; and
  • The emotional ties between the child and both parents.

The court then works to determine what kind of custody arrangement will best serve the child.

In this guide, we will define some of the terms that are often involved in child custody law in California, and answer questions about paternity (determining who is a child’s father), custody, and termination of parental rights.

Are you involved in a custody dispute? Are you thinking about getting a divorce and need to know your rights and obligations with regards to child custody and visitation in California? You will want to have an experienced attorney by your side. At Moshtael Family Law, our team has handled myriad child custody cases with ease, and we have more than likely worked with someone in your exact same situation.

Please contact us if you need child custody help in California. We can guide you through the California child custody process or work through your custody matter – we aim to help Southern California parents resolve their custody issues thoroughly, efficiently, and affordably.

Common Legal Terms for Child Custody in CA

  • Child Custody: The responsibility for the care of a child awarded by the court during divorce or separation proceedings.
  • Child Support: A financial arrangement following a divorce that ensures children in a divorce are properly provided for by a spouse, regardless of custody.
  • Joint Custody: Custody of a child that is shared by both parents.
    • Joint legal custody means that both parents have the legal authority to make decisions for the child on important things like education and healthcare.
    • Joint physical custody means that both parents are responsible for the physical care and supervision of the child, and taking care of physical needs like shelter, clothing, food, and transportation.
  • Sole Custody: Sole legal custody is when one parent only has the legal authority to make decisions for the child on important things like education and healthcare.
    • Sole physical custody means that only one parent is responsible for the physical care and supervision of the child, and taking care of physical needs like shelter, clothing, food, and transportation
    • It is important to note that a court may order sole physical custody to one parent, and joint legal custody to both parents.
  • Paternity: Refers to determining who is a person’s father.
  • Spousal Support: Spousal support is payments to an ex-spouse that is awarded by the court and detailed in the official divorce decree or separation agreement. Spousal support is also called alimony.
  • Termination of Parental Rights: A legal order to end the child-parent relationship permanently.
  • Visitation: Visitation refers to the rights of non-custodial parents to spend time with their child.

What Questions Should I Ask My Custody Lawyer?

When you are looking to hire a lawyer to help with your divorce, you should consider their background, and experience with some of the issues you anticipate that you will face in your divorce. You will also want to ensure that they are in good standing with the State Bar of California (you can check this at and that they have references from satisfied clients.

In addition, you may want to consider asking your lawyer the following questions:

  • What is your approach to solving this sort of dispute?
  • Will you be working this matter or will it be someone else in your firm?
  • Do you know the family law judges who we may appear before?
  • Are you comfortable representing someone in my situation?
  • How long do you think my proceedings will take?
  • What kind of resolution do you think I can expect?
  • How do you communicate with your clients and provide updates?

Other Resources

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