2021 Guide to Joint Custody in California

Joint custody is California’s preferred child custody situation, where possible. Though the laws do not change very frequently, sometimes the California legislature updates its child custody laws. As of the beginning of 2021, these rules have not changed recently, but there could always be updates or adjustments as the year goes on.

If there are rule changes that substantially affect your custody case, you may be entitled to have your child custody order modified. In this article, the Ventura child custody lawyers at the Law Offices of Bamieh & De Smeth, PLC, will break down the current 2021 laws for child custody in California. If you need help with your custody case, call our law offices today for a free and private consultation. Our phone number is (805) 643-5555.

California Child Custody Laws 2021

Courts in California are responsible for deciding who gets the kids in a divorce or in cases where the parents are not married and live separately. In many cases, the courts will accept agreements the parties make. This means that if one parent does not want custody, courts will honor that. However, refusing to take custody does not mean you avoid paying child support and will often result in higher child support payments since you do not share any out-of-pocket costs. It is always wise to make sure you meet the requirements set forth by California law regarding custody. The last thing you want or need is getting yourself in deep trouble for refusing to take custody of your kids.

If both parents are willing to take custody, California courts actually prefer to give joint custody. “Joint custody” refers to a situation where each parent has some custody rights, but there is a broad range of situations this can relate to.

First, it is essential to understand that there are two types of child custody. “Physical custody” refers to when your child actually lives with you in your home. On the other hand, “legal custody” is the right to be the child’s parent and make decisions in their life. You cannot have physical custody without also having legal custody.

In many families, one parent will have physical custody for more of the time. That parent is said to have “primary physical custody” and may be referred to as the “custodial parent.” However, legal custody is shared equally, and both parents have the same rights to make decisions in their children’s lives.

Courts often arrange child custody orders that award legal custody to both parents but divide physical custody in a way that works best for the children. If one parent has a job and the other does not, the non-working parent has more free time to raise the children and may be awarded physical custody for a more significant portion of the year. The other parent may then get the kids on weekends, holidays, or for the summer. Arrangements like this are not even but are still a form of joint custody.

Alternatively, parents in similar financial situations may alternate weeks, changing custody at the end of the week. If the parents live close enough together that this does not affect the children’s ability to stay at the same school, a plan like this might be appropriate.

Understanding the child’s best interest is critical in understanding why the courts tend to rule the way they do. There is a general misconception only mothers ger preference over fathers when it comes to custody. However, this is not always the case. Every child custody case is decided considering its unique circumstances. There may be instances where a mother is not capable of taking good care of their children in which case custody may be granted to the father. There are also cases where the mother is ordered to pay child support instead of the father. The courts will always consider the child’s best interests when deciding custody cases.

Shared Custody Law in California

Shared legal custody can be a tricky situation, but is still the preferred outcome for California courts. It is important, in the eyes of the State, that children have both parents involved in their lives – and it is usually important to the parents that they have the right to make decisions in their children’s lives. Legal custody is the power to make decisions for significant life issues, such as:

  • Medical care decisions,
  • Which school to attend,
  • What religion to practice,
  • Whether the child is vegetarian, and
  • What afterschool activities the child participates in.

On the other hand, day-to-day decisions are left to whichever parent has physical custody on that day. For instance, decisions about how the child gets to soccer practice, what they eat for dinner, or whether they can play with a friend after school are usually decisions left to the parent with physical custody.

Parents have equal rights to make these decisions, meaning there is often some collaboration or disagreement on these kinds of issues. For instance, parents may feel very strongly about their religious beliefs, but must either come to an agreement on what religion to raise their shared children or give each other room to teach their children both faiths.

If the other parent is refusing to allow you to make decisions, you may be entitled to have a court enforce your opinion under your child custody order. While physical custody may go primarily to one parent, legal custody is shared equally. That means that even when your children live with the other parent, you still have the right to make certain, big decisions for your kids.

You are not prevented from expressing your concerns or opinions just because the other parent has custody over the kids. It is important to speak up and talk with the court if the other party is somehow blocking or denying your rights. The courts will always favor a scenario where both parties can work out a friendly resolution for the sake of the children.

Contact Our Ventura Child Custody Lawyers Today for a Free Consultation

The Ventura family law attorneys at Law Offices of Bamieh & De Smeth, PLC, work to help parents gain child custody, protect their custody rights, and enforce the decisions they make for their children. We understand how complicated the process may be for some parents, which is why we strive to fight aggressively and tirelessly to uphold and defend your rights. If you are interested in seeking joint custody after a divorce or need help enforcing your parental rights in 2021, talk to one of our lawyers today. For a free consultation on your case, contact our law offices at (805) 643-5555.

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