Child Custody

There are actu­al­ly two types of cus­tody: phys­i­cal cus­tody and legal cus­tody.


Phys­i­cal cus­tody refers to where the child resides and who super­vis­es the child. Cal­i­for­nia law prefers each par­ent to have sig­nif­i­cant peri­ods of phys­i­cal cus­tody with their chil­dren, based on their cir­cum­stances. Phys­i­cal cus­tody must be shared in such a way to assure that the child has fre­quent and con­tin­u­ing con­tact with both par­ents.

Legal cus­tody refers to which of the par­ents has the right and respon­si­bil­i­ty to make deci­sions relat­ing to the child’s health, edu­ca­tion, and wel­fare. Exam­ples of legal cus­tody deci­sions include the right to agree to non-emer­gen­cy med­ical treat­ment.  In many cas­es, legal cus­tody is shared by the par­ents in a divorce. In some instances, where one spouse com­mits or threat­ens a crime of vio­lence, a court may award the oth­er spouse sole legal cus­tody.

A Sacra­men­to Divorce Court will make ini­tial cus­tody and vis­i­ta­tion deci­sions from the stand­point of the best inter­est of the child. This broad man­date can cause cus­tody dis­putes to bal­loon well beyond what the ini­tial dis­pute was, as each par­ent tries to bol­ster their own case while under­min­ing the oth­er parent’s case.