Child Custody and Visitation
Disagreements over Child Custody and Visitation is one of the hardest issues for parties to navigate and for the Court to address. Unlike financial issues, there are not clear right and wrong approaches to disagreement over custody and visitation issues.
The Court focuses on one thing: The Best Interests of the child or children. While that is an easy phrase to remember, it encompasses many sometimes competing issues. School issues, medical issues, holiday schedules, after-school activities, and the day-to-day schedule are just a few items that are decided using a “best interest” analysis.
The best cases are those where the parents are in agreement as to what is in their child’s best interests. The hardest cases are those where they are not. Particularly contested cases often will involve outside experts, such as custody evaluators or recommending mediators.
Legal Custody is usually about decision-making. Health, Education, Activities, etc. Legal custody can be joint, or sole.
Physical custody is generally a function of visitation. If one parent has less than 25% visitation, then the other parent generally has sole physical custody. Otherwise, it is generally joint physical custody.
This is the day-to-day schedule. When are the children physically in the care of one parent or the other? Holidays, school breaks, and vacations, are all part of the visitation schedule.
There’s a form for that!
The Judicial Council has created a number of custody and visitation forms which can help parties think about these issues and create a parenting plan. See them here.