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Addressing legal and physical custody after divorce

Creating a workable parenting plan is a goal for most parents in California who are separated or are divorcing. A comprehensive child custody and visitation schedule should meet the best interests of the child. In general, parenting plans should cover both physical custody issues and legal custody issues.

Physical custody refers to the place where the child will reside and the person with whom they will live. When making a parenting plan, it is important to consider where the child will reside both during the course of the week and on Saturdays and Sundays. Parenting plans should also address which parent the child will reside with during holidays and summer vacation. Part of having physical custody of a child is overseeing that child's activities, such as extracurricular activities and homework. Transportation of the child between parents will also need to be addressed in a parenting plan.

Legal custody, on the other hand, refers to which parent is permitted to make important decisions on behalf of the child. Such decisions can cover a variety of topics. For example, deciding which school the child will attend, which religion the child will practice and where the child will go for medical care are all types of decisions that parents with legal custody may make. If parents share legal custody, they will have to make these decisions together.

Children often benefit from having a strong relationship with both parents. Even if a child's parents are separated or are divorcing, that child still should have the opportunity to enjoy a meaningful relationship with each parent. Parents may be able to develop a parenting plan on their own, but it they cannot agree, they may have to turn to the court to establish a parenting plan that meets the physical, mental and emotional needs of their child.

Source:, "Parenting Plans," accessed Feb. 1, 2016

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