A parent in California with primary physical custody of their child is the child’s custodial parent. They live with the child and care for the child most of the time. Noncustodial parents usually have visitation with their children according to a parenting plan. 

The two types of child custody are:

  • Physical Custody – Determines which parent is the custodial parent. The custodial parent provides for the child’s daily needs and makes decisions regarding the child’s daily life.
  • Legal Custody – The parent with legal custody has the right to make decisions regarding the child, including medical, educational, religious, and extra-curricular decisions. 

California judges favor joint custody because it gives both parents equal time with a child. It also allows both parents to participate in making decisions for their children and be active in their children’s lives. However, there are situations where a court grants one parent sole custody.

Sole Custody vs. Shared Custody

Sole custody gives the custodial parent the authority to make all decisions for the child. Unless a court order states otherwise, a custodial parent with sole custody does not need to consult the other parent when making decisions for the child. Therefore, if they want to send the child to a private school instead of a public school, for example, they can enroll the child without input from the other parent.

A parent with sole custody must abide by visitation and timesharing orders. Additionally, the parent cannot relocate the child far away from their current home without court permission. 

When a court grants joint custody, the parents share the decision-making role. Both parents have the right to make decisions regarding their children. They work together to parent and raise their child.

However, the child often lives primarily with one parent. That parent is the custodial parent. 

It can be challenging to split time equally between both parents. Children need stability. Switching homes every week or every other week can be very disruptive.

Therefore, most child custody arrangements stipulate a primary residence for the child, even though the parents might share custody. The parent who does not have primary physical custody has scheduled visitation. The parents can also agree to additional visitation that benefits the family.

How Is Custody Determined in San Diego, CA?

The court bases child custody decisions on what is in the best interest of the child. The judge can consider the parents’ wishes and could consider the child’s wishes when making custody decisions. Nonetheless, ultimately, the child’s best interest is the overriding concern.

Factors a judge considers when deciding child custody cases include:

  • A parent’s ability to provide for the child’s needs
  • The safety and health of the child
  • Allegations or a history of domestic violence or abuse
  • A parent’s use of alcohol or controlled substances
  • The child’s health, age, and special needs
  • How close the child is with either or both parents and siblings

A judge can consider relevant factors that impact the child’s best interest. The judge can eliminate or restrict visitation if allowing a parent unsupervised visitation would be detrimental to the child. 

What Happens if Things Change After the Court Issues a Child Custody Order?

Life events and changes in circumstances might require a modification of child custody. If parents agree to a change in custody, they can submit a written agreement or stipulation to the court. The judge reviews and grants the request if the changes are in the child’s best interest. 

However, a parent might not agree to change the current custody terms. In that case, the parent requesting the change must petition the court. 

The parent has the burden of proving that a substantial change in circumstances justifies modifying the current custody arrangement. The other parent can respond and argue against the change.

Reasons that might justify a change in custody terms include, but are not limited to:

  • A parent wants to relocate with the child
  • The child’s needs change
  • A parent becomes disabled or ill
  • An older child states a desire to live with the other parent
  • A parent has a new job 
  • A parent remarries 

A judge considers all factors when deciding whether to modify custody terms. Even if a parent has a good reason for requesting a modification, the child’s best interest is the primary concern. 

Child custody issues can be challenging to navigate. Typically, both parents believe they know what is best for their child. 

When parents agree to resolve custody issues through negotiation and mediation, the result is often better for all parties. An experienced San Diego child custody lawyer helps parents protect their rights and their child’s best interests. 

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