Child Custody FAQs

Answers About Child Custody in the South Bay & Torrance

What are the different types of child custody in California?

There are two different types of child custody that are parent can seek over his or her child: physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody decides which parent the child will live with. Meanwhile, legal custody establishes how much decision-making power each parent has in the child's life. These decisions usually pertain to things like the childcare, the child's medical treatment, education, involvement in extra-curricular activities, travel, etc.

What are the different types of physical custody?

If a parent has sole physical custody, the child lives with that parent her 100% of the time. If the parent has primary custody, this means that the child lives with that parent most of the time, with the other parent getting visitation rights. When the child switches off living with both parents and spends a significant amount of time with each one, the parents have joint physical custody.

What are the different types of legal custody?

If both parents make important decisions in the child's life, they have joint legal custody. If only one parent has authority to make such decisions, then he or she has sole legal custody. A parent can be granted joint legal custody even when he or she does not have joint physical custody.

Can the child decide which parent he or she wants to live with?

California law states that a child's preference of which parent to live with should be given a good amount of consideration when the child is of "sufficient age" and is able to reason intelligently. State law does not specify an age, but it does state that a child age 14 or older who wishes to address the court in a custody case should be allowed to do so (unless doing so would not be in the child's best interest). Younger children may also be allowed to speak in court, at the judge's discretion. Just because a child shares his or her preference, this does not force the court to rule in the child's favor. It is still up to the court to determine which custody arrangement is most beneficial for the child.

What if I need to change a custody order?

If a parent wants to change a child custody order, that person has two options: 1) reach a formal agreement with the other parent and have it approved by the court, or 2) file a petition for a modification. If a petition for modification is filed, the petitioning parent will need to prove that there was a major change in circumstances that merits the change. It will also need to be proven that this modification is best for the child's wellbeing. The court will decide whether or not to grant the modification after both parents present their arguments.