Our child custody lawyer in California answers frequently asked questions that we receive from new clients. We understand why there are so many questions, because there's a lot of misinformation about child custody. Each state law varies significantly or subtly on child custody. We are here to dispel the misinformation, clarify misunderstandings, and provide the right information so you can make smart, informed decisions about your child and your unique situation.

If you still have questions or want more specific information about your child custody matter, contact Payne Law Group today either by using our online form or calling us directly at 714-945-5899.

What is the most common child custody arrangement in California?

Child custody arrangements vary from family to family and state to state. There are several arrangements that are more popular than others, including legal custody, physical custody, sole custody, joint legal custody, and sole legal custody. In California, the two areas of custody are LEGAL custody and PHYSICAL custody. Joint legal custody is the most common custody arrangement with regard to LEGAL custody. This is where both parents are involved in the decisions regarding how their child is raised. Joint Physical Custody is the most common custody arrangement with regard to PHYSICAL custody. This is where both parents spend about equal time physical with the child. Popular physical custody plans are the 2-2-3, 2-2-5 and week on/week off. 

With a 2-2-3 parenting plan, each parent has physical custody two days during the week (M-T or W-Th) and alternate the weekend. This plan is best for small children so they are not separated from wither children for more than three days. With a 2-2-5 parenting plan, each parent has the same two days during the week, and alternate the weekend, so the child is not separated from wither parent for more than five days at a time. This plan is generally better for school-age kids and is more convenient for parents to schedule activities. Week on/week off parenting plans tends the preferred plan for teens. They like being in one home for the school week and alternating homes on the weekends. 

If we were never married, do I still need a custody order in California?

The answer to this question is generally yes. If you are seeking to establish any rights to the child, including custody, visitation, or child support, paternity does need to be confirmed. A formal order protects the children as well as the parents. Discussing and agreeing to a formal order is most effective when the relationship is in a positive place. 

How is child custody determined in Orange County?

In most situations, when the parents of a child are able to agree on a child custody arrangement, the court will issue an order that confirms the terms of the agreement. When the parties are unable to reach an agreement on their own, they will attend court provided mediation and try with a professional to reach an agreement. When all else fails, the court will hear the matter and issue an order the parties must abide by. The court will consider the best interest of the child, and other evidence when deciding child custody. The best interest of the child is always the criteria the court uses in these decisions. It is always best to reach an agreement if at all possible, and not leave this important decision in the hands of the court. 

What's the difference between legal and physical custody?

When a parent has physical custody, they actually have the physical child placed with them. This is the parent that lives with the child and takes care of their everyday needs. One parent may have primary physical custody while the other has secondary physical custody or visitation. Parents may have joint physical custody where each parent cares for the child a substantial percentage of the time. A parent may have sole physical custody, which is rare, in cases where there is a history of abuse or dangerous circumstances.  

A parent who has legal custody is the one allowed to make important decisions about the child, including decisions regarding the child's medical care, education, and religious upbringing. Joint legal custody may be awarded to both parents so that they both have input in making these important decisions for their child.  

Does custody primarily go to one parent in California?

This is an incorrect assumption many people make. The answer is “no.” The "standard" in California is joint legal and physical custody. The courts often award other types of custody arrangements, such as joint physical custody, joint legal custody, or a combination of both, and step-up plans which increase one parents custodial time as the child gets older. 

The courts always consider the evidence and the best interest of the child to be of paramount concern. 

Do I need a child custody lawyer in Orange County?

In many cases, parents mutually agree on child custody arrangements, and so that makes the matter easier. In some of those cases, though, a parent may have felt compelled to agree, and so having a family law attorney advise you on what's fair (or not) is beneficial. In contentious situations, a child custody lawyer is highly recommended. It takes skills, knowledge, and a lot of perseverance to make sure the child custody arrangement approved or ordered by the court is fair and just and reflects what you had anticipated. It is always advised to at least consult with a family law attorney before deciding to represent yourself, so you know what to expect. 

Contact a Child Custody Lawyer in California Today

If you need help with a child custody case, contact Payne Law Group. Our child custody attorney in California will advise you of your rights and guide you through the process. Contact us online or at 714-945-5899 to schedule a Free Phone.