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Child Custody in California

Child custody laws in California is a complicated topic. Common issues that frequently come up in child custody disputes in California are the following:

  • Physical custody
  • Legal custody
  • Best interest of the child
  • Visitation
  • Child support
  • Parental alienation
  • Abandonment
  • Abuse
  • Domestic Violence


Physical Custody 

Physical custody refers to the primary residence of the child. For example, if your child will be primarily living with you, then you will have “sole physical custody.” In other words, you will be primarily responsible for the care and custody of your child. On the other hand, if your child spends a significant amount of time with both parents, then you will have “joint physical custody.” Therefore, physical custody really refers to where and with who the child lives.

Legal Custody 

Legal custody simply refers to the right of the parent to make major decisions about the child. These are the important decisions regarding child’s education, health, or even religious upbringing. Just like physical custody, legal custody can be sole or joint. Getting sole legal custody means you will be making important decisions on your own. Joint legal custody means that both parents will have to make these decisions together.Thus, be prepared to co-parent with your ex.

Knowledge is Power

Meaning of Joint Custody 

Joint custody means that the custody of the child will be shared by the parents. The sharing of custody does not have to be exactly 50/50 for a custody arrangement to be considered joint. Regardless of the percentage of custody, a custody arrangement will be considered joint when both parents have shared responsibility in care custody. Thus, joint does not require a exact 50/50 split.

Meaning of Sole Custody

Sole custody means that you have primary custody. The term “sole “is a misleading legal term. Many courts have replaced the term “sole” with the word “primary” because “primary” is a much more accurate reflection of how the custodial arrangement will look like. Although the word “primary” in the context of custody does not have any legal meaning. Thus, the proper term to use is “sole.”

Initial Custody Determination

When you ask the court to establish custody of your child, the court must determine the custodial arrangement by determining that which is in the best interest of the child. Usually, there is a presumption that a current custodial arrangement is in the best interest of the child. So, the party seeking to change the current custody arrangement will have the burden to persuade the court. Thus, whoever is seeking a change must explain why the change is in the best interest of the child.

Temporary Custody Orders 

When a petition for custody is filed, the court may issue temporary custody orders, until a dispute as to custody between the parties is resolved. The custody dispute can be resolved either through litigation of the issues before the court or the agreement of the parties. If the parties decide to litigate the matter before the family court judge, then the judge’s decision will become the court order that supersedes the temporary custody order.

Final Custody Order

Custody orders that are not temporary are considered final. There is no exact definition as to temporary versus final custody orders. However, a judgement that clearly states it is a final judgment and that is clear as to custodial arrangement i.e., the custodial rights and responsibilities of the parties, is usually considered a final judgment. On the other hand, a temporary stipulation as to child custody or a court order on custody pending a child custody trial is likely a temporary child custody order. Whether a child custody order is temporary or final is important if the parties request to change or modify the order. If the custody order is a final custody order then modification of the order requires a proof of (1) a significant change in circumstances and (2) the change must be in the best interest of the child. Yet, changing a temporary custody order there need not be a proof of significant change in circumstances. Thus, the burden of proof will be lower in a modification of a temporary custody order.


Significant or Substantial Change in Circumstances 

Asking for modification of a custody order is very common. Generally, there are two common legal scenarios where a parent asks for modification. First, a parent can ask for modification after the initial child custody order and before the final child custody order. Second, a parent can ask for modification after the issuance of the final custody order. If you are seeking to modify a final child custody order then you must prove the following to the court: 

  • There has been a significant change in circumstances and
  • The new arrangement you are proposing is in the best interest of the child

On the other hand if you are only asking to modify a temporary child custody order you need not prove there has been a significant or substantial change in circumstances. You only need to prove that the change is in the best interest of the child. 


Family Law Blogs

Orange County Child Custody Lawyers

Some of the cities we serve

  • Aliso Viejo Child Custody Lawyers
  • Anaheim Child Custody Lawyers
  • Costa Mesa Child Custody Lawyers
  • Irvine Child Custody Lawyers
  • Laguna Beach Child Custody Lawyers
  • Laguna Hills Child Custody Lawyers
  • Laguna Niguel Child Custody Lawyers
  • Mission Viejo Child Custody Lawyers
  • Newport Beach Child Custody Lawyers
  • Orange Child Custody Lawyers

Sabeti Law & Associates 

  • Family law attorneys in orange county 
  • Family law private mediation 

Tel: 949-326-2626

Fax: 949-899-8259


Address: 23832 Rockfield Blvd Ste # 175,

Lake Forest, Ca, 92630


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