Kevin Qualls Family Law
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Review of joint custody in California

This blog has mentioned the concept of joint custody before, but it may be helpful for Orange County parents to have a refresher on exactly what "joint custody" means, as the term can sometimes be used in different ways. A true joint custody arrangement implies that parents will split the time they have with their children 50-50 insofar as possible. A perfectly even split may not, however, be practical due to parents' work schedules and other reasons.

Joint custody in this sense could mean children move between their parents' homes on a weekly or even daily basis. Other alternative arrangements are also possible for carrying out a true joint custody plan, and couples may want to and even need to get creative in order to do so.

However, when many if not most Californians refer to joint custody, they are instead referring to what is more properly called joint legal custody. Unlike joint physical custody, parents with joint legal custody may not share parenting time equally; the children may instead clearly live with one of their parents most of the time.

Parents with joint legal custody are expected to discuss and make important decisions about their children's upbringing together. These important decisions include choices about education, religion, medical care and where the child will permanently reside.

Whether a joint physical custody arrangement or joint legal custody is appropriate for a couple depends heavily on the specific facts and circumstances; as with any child custody decision, a judge will award joint custody if the judge feels that doing so is in the child's best interest. Because joint custody is a fact-sensitive question, it usually is helpful for an Orange County parent to have the assistance of an experienced family law attorney.

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