Helping Clients Make Wise & Informed Family Law Decisions

More About Custody, Visitation And Parenting Time

Many divorcing parents in San Francisco are confused about the legal terminology of child custody law. The job of a family law attorney is to fully explain your rights in helping you and the other parent shape a workable, flexible and creative custody agreement that serves the specific interests of both children and their parents. It is important for clients and their attorneys to negotiate effectively a general time share, work schedules, school activity participation, family holidays, vacations, weekend custody, and in some instances, grandparent rights.

Legal custody (California Family Code §3003) is generally shared by both parents even if the children live primarily with one parent. It refers to the ability to make decisions concerning the health, education and welfare of a minor child.

Physical custody (California Family Code §3004) refers to the actual living arrangement of a child. Often, one parent has primary physical custody — the child resides with and is under that parent’s supervision most of the time — while the other parent has visitation rights. The goal of the state of California, supported by experts in child psychology and psychiatry, is that both parents have open, substantial and continuous time and access to their children. If the children reside for significant amounts of time in both parents’ respective homes and the parents can work together effectively, both parents may have joint physical custody.

Mediation Approaches To Child Custody And Visitation

Parents are free and strongly encouraged to reach their own custody and visitation arrangements either on their own or through child custody mediation. An amicable agreement is best for all, as it avoids arbitrary decisions by a judge who is unfamiliar with your needs and the needs of your family.

The Superior Court of California provides free child custody mediation services for parents. Family lawyers help their clients prepare for these mediation sessions. Sometimes, however, one party cannot or will not accommodate the other parent’s wishes for the children’s needs and the process can become emotionally charged. In those cases, a judge may have to rule on the appropriate custody schedule for the children and their parents.