Family Matters.
When It Really Matters.

What is the Difference Between Legal and Physical Child Custody

On Behalf of | May 31, 2021 | Child Custody and Visitation

What is the difference between physical and legal child custody in a Carlsbad divorce case?

North County couples going through a divorce may not know the child custody options available to a judge when deciding issues regarding children during a divorce. When judges make any decision regarding the custody of a child they must give serious consideration to many factors, including but not limited to:

  • the child’s age
  • the child’s health
  • existing patterns regarding education, healthcare, religious practices, social and extra-curricular activities
  • the presence and support of family and close friends
  • any history of abuse and other elements conducive to the general safety and welfare of the child
  • the child’s own wishes provided that the child has reached a level of maturity sufficient to articulate his or her desires in a rational way. (Children over the age of 14 have the right to express their opinion with regard to parental custody)

There are two separate elements of child custody in any California family law case: physical custody and legal custody.  Custody is either going to be “joint” or “sole.”

sole legal custody – only one parent has the legal authority to make choices about the child’s health care, education and other important matters in the life of a child.

sole physical custody – the child will only live with one of their parents.

joint legal custody – both parents have the legal authority to make important legal choices concerning the child’s life.

joint physical custody – the child lives with both parents on a regular basis (as established in the Parenting Plan).

What is the difference between physical and legal child custody in California?  Physical custody is associated with the right to have a child living in your home.  Legal custody is the right to make important decisions regarding the life of a child.

In the majority of cases each former spouse shares joint physical and legal custody with the other parent.  This is commonly referred to as “Shared Parenting.”  If circumstances change, child custody options may be altered as well to fit the new situation. In some cases, when both parents agree on a new order, the judge may approve these changes without a hearing.  In other cases, the parties must request a hearing of the post-decree matter from our Family Court.

When negotiating matters of custody and parenting time you will find it helpful to speak with our experienced Certified Family Law Specialists. We provide parents with insight and sound advice regarding custody and parenting time matters.  Moreover, our experienced team can help to obtain a favorable resolution to negotiations, mediation or outcome concerning child custody and parenting time issues.

Protect your own interests and contact us or call 760-389-3927 to schedule an appointment for a remote or socially distanced consultation with one of our experienced Certified Family Law Specialists.