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Child custody 101: know the basics

We discuss several complicated situations involving child custody and visitation on this blog, from international custody disputes to violations of parental rights. There is no doubt that every child custody case has the potential to be complex and problematic.

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However, not all custody cases are particularly thorny, legally speaking. For many people going through the process of establishing custody and visitation in California, it can be a fairly straightforward, albeit still difficult, situation.

If you have legal custody, you have the right to make decisions for your child when it comes to his or her health, religion, travel, education and welfare. These are some of the most important decisions that need to be made for a child, so having legal custody will allow you, the other parent or more likely the both of you to play a critical role in how the child is raised.

If you have physical custody, you will have the responsibility of taking care of the child's needs on a regular basis, as he or she will be living with you. This can mean getting the child to school, disciplining the child, making sure he or she is safe and tending to his or her daily needs. Many parents share physical custody in some manner, which means that the other parent will also have the same responsibilities because the child will likely be staying with each parent for specific periods of time.

Parents can share both types of custody or one parent can be granted sole physical and/or legal custody in cases with serious conflict/allegations making the issue more complicated.

In order to establish custody and visitation rights, you and the other parent can work with your attorneys to come to an agreement outside of court. Many people pursue this option because it allows them to avoid the cost and time associated with going through the courts and it allows them to have more control over the outcome. This isn't always feasible, but it can certainly be a good place to start.

Breaking down child custody laws in this way should hopefully help you see that it may not be as intimidating as you think. Yes, it is possible that more complicated issues will arise during a dispute or discussion but generally speaking, parents will often have some degree of custody or visitation. For more information on your specific situation, however, you should speak with an attorney.

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