Determining A Parenting Plan and Visitation Schedule

Healthy visitation time with parents is incredibly important to children. In order to establish the right schedule for you and your children, you should know how custody works in California and what your options are.

In California, a person can have sole or joint custody of a child. That custody can be legal or physical. In other words, the terms legal or physical indicate the type of custody, and the terms sole or joint indicate how that custody is shared. But what do these terms really mean? As noted within the Family Code:

Sole Legal Custody
Family Code Section 3006 provides that sole legal custody "means that one parent shall have the right and the responsibility to make the decisions relating to the health, education, and welfare of a child."

Joint Legal Custody
Family Code Section 3003 provides that joint legal custody "means that both parents shall share the right and the responsibility to make the decisions relating to the health, education, and welfare of a child."

Sole Physical Custody
Family Code Section 3007 provides that sole physical custody "means that a child shall reside with and be under the supervision of one parent, subject to the power of the court to order visitation."

Joint Physical Custody
Family Code Section 3004 provides that joint physical custody "means that each of the parents shall have significant periods of physical custody. Joint physical custody shall be shared by the parents in such a way so as to assure a child of frequent and continuing contact with both parents, subject to Sections 3011 and 3020."

  • NOTE: Joint physical custody does not require the parties to have equal time with their child. Rather, as stated within Family Code Section 3004, each parent is to have "significant" periods of physical custody.

How are custody and visitation determined?

To determine custody and visitation, the judge must look to the best interest of the child (Family Code Section 3011). The judge considers the child's health, safety, and welfare in determining what's in the child's best interest. However, these factors are broadly defined by the law. This allows for a lot of uncertainty as to what — and whom — is in the child's best interest. An experienced Family Law attorney with an intimate understanding of the law can help you fight for your custody and visitation goals and effectively present the facts of your case to the court.

This is just a brief overview of some of the most basic elements of child custody and visitation. To understand the full complexity of the facts of your case, your rights, and your options, consult with Michael P. McDeavitt, a Certified Family Law Specialist and attorney with over 20 years of experience.

Contact our firm by phone or through our website for a free initial consultation. We also represent clients in Dublin, Livermore, San Ramon, the Tri-Valley and throughout East Bay.