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Different types of child custody

California parents going through custody battles should know the different types of custody. Depending on the circumstances, one or both parents might get custody or one parent is awarded custody while the other has visitation rights.

Legal custody

Legal custody refers to a parent’s right to make all important decisions concerning the child and how to raise them. That parent has the right to make decisions about the child’s education, health care, religion and anything else that concerns the child up until the age of 18. It is common for legal custody to be held jointly by both parents.

Physical custody

When the court awards physical custody to a parent, it means that the child lives with that parent. The parent who has physical custody is responsible for the child’s daily caretaking and provides them with their primary home. Physical custody also requires the parent to provide food, clothing and other necessities.

Sole custody

Sole custody means that only one parent has custody. The court often awards this form of custody when only one parent has consistently been in the child’s life or when one parent has shown to be unfit and a potential danger to the child.

A parent can be given sole legal or sole physical custody. Sole legal custody means that only one parent has the legal right to make all decisions on the child’s upbringing. Sole physical custody means that only one parent is allowed to have the child living in their home. Sometimes, with these arrangements, the other parent has visitation.

Joint custody

Both parents have rights to the child with joint custody. With joint legal custody, they can each make decisions on the child’s behalf. Joint physical custody means that the child splits their time living at both parents’ homes.

Courts always determine custody based on the child’s best interests. Depending on the situation, the judge might decide on any of these arrangements.