A judge can order a child custody arrangement when family disputes involve children. These disputes can arise in many contexts, including divorce, paternity, and unfit parents.

California law describes many types of custody, each providing a different set of legal rights and responsibilities concerning the children.

Types of Custody in California

California divides custody into several types based on the duration, nature, and rights provided. You must guide the court in what you want when you seek custody. Determinations are based on facts, and the court will look for different evidence depending on the type of custody you want.

Custody Types by Duration

California judges can order emergency, temporary, or permanent custody. 

Permanent Custody

Most custody orders are permanent. This term is slightly misleading because you can always return to a judge to try to modify a “permanent” custody order.

Emergency Custody

When a child faces imminent harm, a judge can order emergency custody pending further court proceedings. In other words, the judge will review your application for emergency custody and grant or deny it without notifying the parent(s).

This type of custody order often happens due to:

  • Child abuse or threatened kidnapping
  • Domestic violence
  • Child abandonment or neglect
  • Parental drug or alcohol abuse

After the order is approved, the court will set a hearing date. The emergency order provides custody until the hearing. After the hearing, the judge might extend the custody order until they make a final determination in the case.

Temporary Custody

A temporary custody order usually covers an arrangement between parents during the pendency of a case. For example, when you start a divorce proceeding, a judge can issue a temporary custody order that will govern custody until the court issues a final divorce decree with a permanent custody order.

Custody Types by Rights

Custody orders cover two types of legal rights:

The term “legal custody” describes the right to make decisions affecting the child’s life. Some decisions that a custodial parent or legal guardian can make include:

  • Health care and medical
  • Educational
  • Religious

Someone with legal custody can make these decisions, and no one can challenge them unless they endanger the child.

Physical Custody

In contrast, physical custody entails responsibility for a child’s living arrangements. If you have physical custody, the child will live with you for at least part of the time.

Custody Types by Nature

A custody order’s nature will define whether you share custody with someone else. 

Joint Custody

A joint custody order means that you and the other party share rights. For example, joint legal custody means that each of you participates in major decisions for the child. Joint physical custody means the child lives with each of you for at least part of the time.

Sole Custody

Sole custody means you do not share custody. Sole legal custody gives you sole authority to make important decisions in the child’s life. Sole physical custody means the child only lives with you.

When awarded in a divorce, sole physical custody could include visitation by the other parent. 

How Courts Award Custody

All custody orders are determined using the “best interests of the child” test. This is a fact-intensive test that looks at the health, safety, and welfare of the child. The court can also consider any allegations of drug abuse or domestic violence.

You and your family law attorney must gather as much evidence as possible relating to each person’s qualifications and present legal arguments about how these factors might affect the child. A comprehensive legal strategy can help you pursue a custody arrangement with the duration, nature, and rights that are best for your child.

Contact Our Child Custody Law Firm in San Diego, CA

Contact our experienced San Diego child custody lawyers at San Diego Divorce Lawyers, APC today for legal assistance. Contact our San Diego office at (619) 866-3756 to schedule a free consultation.

San Diego Divorce Lawyers, APC
2851 Camino del Rio S #430
San Diego, CA 92108