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Home > Family Law Articles > Child Custody and Visitation Rights in California: A Guide for Parents

Child Custody and Visitation Rights in California: A Guide for Parents

Young man and young boy sharing electronic device outdoorsChild custody and visitation are paramount concerns for parents going through a divorce or separation in California. At Blasser Law, we understand the importance of protecting your relationship with your child while ensuring their best interests are at the forefront. This article aims to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of how child custody and visitation are determined in California, including the distinctions between legal and physical custody and the factors courts consider in making these critical decisions. Contact our office for personalized, professional assistance with child custody and visitation issues in Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley.

Types of Child Custody in California

In California, child custody is categorized into two main types: legal custody and physical custody. Understanding the difference between these two is crucial for parents as they navigate the legal process.

Legal Custody

Legal custody refers to the right and responsibility of a parent to make significant decisions regarding the child’s welfare, including education, healthcare, and religious upbringing. Legal custody can be jointly shared or rest solely with one parent:

  • Joint Legal Custody: Both parents share the decision-making responsibilities.
  • Sole Legal Custody: Only one parent has the authority to make major decisions for the child.

Physical Custody

Physical custody pertains to where the child resides and the routine care provided by the parent. Similar to legal custody, physical custody can be sole or shared:

  • Joint Physical Custody: The child lives with both parents for significant periods, ensuring frequent and continuous contact with both.
  • Sole Physical Custody: The child primarily resides with one parent, while the other may have visitation rights.

Determining Child Custody and Visitation in California

The paramount consideration in California’s family courts when determining custody and visitation arrangements is the child’s best interests. Several factors are taken into account, including but not limited to:

  1. Health, Safety, and Welfare: The child’s health, safety, and welfare are the primary concerns. Any history of abuse by one parent, either toward the child or the other parent, is taken very seriously.

  2. Continuity and Stability: Courts often favor maintaining stability in the child’s life, including keeping them in the same home, school, and community if possible.

  3. Age and Health of the Child: The child’s age and specific health needs may influence custody arrangements, with courts considering which parent is better equipped to meet those needs.

  4. Emotional Ties: The emotional relationship between the child and each parent is considered, along with each parent’s ability to provide love, affection, and guidance.

  5. Parental Cooperation: The ability of the parents to cooperate and make decisions together for the child’s benefit is a factor. Courts look favorably on parents who encourage a healthy relationship between the child and the other parent.

  6. Child’s Preference: Depending on the child’s age and maturity, their preference may be considered, although it is not the sole determining factor.

Visitation Rights in California

Visitation, also known as parenting time, is outlined in a parenting plan detailing how parents will share time with their children. In cases where one parent has sole physical custody, the noncustodial parent typically has visitation rights. The visitation schedule can vary widely depending on the family’s circumstances and the child’s best interests. In some cases, supervised visitation may be ordered to ensure the child’s safety and well-being; in cases where even supervised visitation would be physically or emotionally hurtful to the child, no visitation could be ordered by the court. At the other end of the spectrum, parenting time can also be open-ended with no written schedule required. What works best for your family depends on your family’s unique situation.

Modifying Custody and Visitation Orders

Life circumstances change, and sometimes it becomes necessary to modify existing custody or visitation orders. In California, either parent can request a modification if there has been a significant change in circumstances since the original order was made. The requesting parent must demonstrate that the modification is in the child’s best interests. If the parents don’t agree on a modification, the court will need to hold an evidentiary hearing to decide the matter. Even if the parents agree on the change, they still need to go to court for an official modification of existing court orders.

Contact Blasser Law in Claremont for Help With Child Custody and Visitation in Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley

Understanding the nuances of child custody and visitation rights in California is essential for parents facing these legal challenges. At Blasser Law, our experienced family law attorneys are dedicated to guiding you through this complex process, ensuring that your rights are protected and your child’s best interests are prioritized. If you have questions or need assistance with your child custody or visitation case, please don’t hesitate to call us at 877-927-2181 for a free initial consultation.

Blasser Law

445 West Foothill Blvd., Suite 108
Claremont, CA 91711




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