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Types of Child Custody Arrangements in San Diego in 2013 for Parents (Paternity, Divorce or Legal Separation)

In San Diego, the determination of childhood custody after a legal separation, paternity or divorce is undoubtedly an emotionally-charged issue and one on which hinges the future of the child and their relationship with each parent. That is why, in San Diego Superior Court, the different types of child custody arrangements that may be enforced depending on the specific nature of a case normally are legal custody and/or physical custody by the parents.

Legal Custody and Physical Custody

Before delving into the various types of child custody arrangements, it is critical to underline the difference between legal and physical forms of custody. Legal custody bestows on a parent the right to make critical decisions about their children’s welfare, health, and education. Physical custody on the other hand, refers to the terms and conditions that govern the day-to-day living arrangement of the children and the actual parenting plan.

Sole Custody and Joint Custody

In case of sole legal custody, one parent possesses all legal rights to make the critical decisions about the children such as school, medical care and many others. This is rare and is not the norm in San Diego Superior Court in which the vast majority of parents have joint legal custody. Similarly, the law promotes joint physical custody as well and this is becoming more the norm over time with many parents using a “5-2-2-5" parenting plan or other modification. In most cases, the schedule and frequency of visit are decided by the court, after of course, the mandatory mediation with the family court services counselor in San Diego and after hearing testimony [either in declaration form or oral testimony] with both parents. It is possible for one parent to have sole legal custody for only one issue and not for all issues such as where the child goes to school The non-custodian parent then does have legal access to critical information about the children, like those related to health. Non-custodian parents may also be allowed to make emergency medical decisions during the time the children are in his or her care.

The definition of joint physical custody in San Diego is that each parent spends the same amount of time with the children. In essence, it refers to the sharing of rights and duties by their children by each parent as per the specific details laid down in the pre-judgment or post-judgment parenting agreement. Joint physical custody entails that the children reside with both parents but on a shared basis wherein each parent has to perform the day-to-day duties and obligations.

While discussing joint physical custody, it is worth clarifying that no law makes it mandatory that the children spend equal amounts of time with each parent. Nor does it specify the exact period of time that the children will spend with each parent. Thus, even in joint physical custody, a child may spend just 25 percent of his or her time with one parent or the other.

The Trends with Child Custody Arrangements in Recent Years in San Diego

It is interesting to note that in the past decade or so, there has been an increase in the number of instances where the Court has favored joint legal custody over joint physical custody. It is of course, up to the parents to accept one or both of these arrangements. But it has been noticed that many divorcing couples favor joint legal custody and joint physical custody. In some cases where parents have been found to consistently disagree with each other when deciding about their children’s health, education, and other critical matters, the court may order joint physical custody but sole legal custody.

The rules of the child custody arrangement are set down firmly but the definitions seem to be fluid, mainly because each divorce and child custody case is unique and the court is guided by the best interests of the child when awarding the rights to one or both parents.

Child Custody Legal Services in California

Doppelt and Forney, APLC is a family law firm based in San Diego that practices in child custody cases. They offer a free introductory 30-minute virtual consultation with an expert and experienced child custody attorney.

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