San Diego Child Custody Lawyers

What Are the Child Custody Laws in California?

In California, the state allows custody and visitation to be awarded in several different ways. When parents are not able to come to an agreement on who will have custody of the child, the court may intervene and decide on the arrangement based on the best interests of the child. Determining what the best interests of the child are can vary depending on child custody laws of the state. Our San Diego family law attorney at the Edmunds Law Firm can help you navigate these laws and pursue the best outcome for your family.

While sole / joint custody determines who gets custody, the physical / legal option is used to determine what type of custody is awarded. For example, physical custody generally refers to where the child where be residing. Legal custody refers to general decisions about their life, such as where they go to school, their religious upbringing, and more. Both of these types of custody can be awarded as joint or sole custody.

Sole Custody

As mentioned above, sole custody can be awarded in two regards: sole legal custody and sole physical custody. A judge will grant custody or visitation rights after considering everything involved in a case.

  • This includes:
  • Health of the child
  • Safety and welfare of the child
  • History of abuse by one parent
  • Various other details

Sole legal custody means one parent has the right to make decisions relating to the health, education, and welfare of the children. Sole physical custody means the child lives with one parent and the other parent has visitation.

Joint Legal Custody

Joint legal custody means that the parents will share the responsibilities of caring for the child, whether in physical residence or in legal matters. While most courts lean towards providing joint custody whenever possible, this isn’t always in the best interests of the child, which can lead to sole custody being awarded.

Learn more about how our firm can help you by contacting us at 800.481.2526!

When parents divorce, most experts believe the best solution for the children is for the parents to reach an agreement on who will take care of what parenting responsibilities. However, some parents are unable to agree on custody or visitation and a judge will make the decision for them. When then happens, our San Diego child custody lawyers can help by providing experienced legal representation.

Physical Custody

Physical custody determines which parent the child will live with. When one parent receives physical custody of the child, the other parent then has rights of visitation in most instances.

Legal Custody

Legal custody may be assigned to both parents, one parent, or, when it is in the child’s best interest, to another adult. It includes the right to decide matters such as the child’s education, religion and health care.

If joint custody is granted, both parents determine together what is best for the child. Joint custody is a more recent concept, first passed into law in 1973 in Indiana. California initiated joint custody decisions in 1980. Today, all states have joint custody laws. If sole custody is granted, only one parent is responsible for making decisions about the child’s health, education and welfare.


When one parent gets physical custody, then rules of visitation are applied, defining when the parent who doesn’t have physical custody has the right to visit the child. In some cases of sole custody, visitation may be granted to the non-custodial parent only when the visit is supervised. In other cases, if the court decides the parent might harm the child, the non-custodial parent may have no rights of visitation at all.

Determining Custody in California

In determining custody, the judge must take into account the child’s wishes if he or she is of “sufficient age and has the capacity to reason.” California law, however, does not require that the judge abide by the child’s wishes. If the judge believes that the child doesn’t state his or her true wishes because of unfair influence by a parent, the judge can disregard the child’s statements.

When the parents cannot agree on issues of legal custody, physical custody, or visitation, the law requires that they meet with a court-appointed counselor before the legal process to make these decisions begins.

At The Edmunds Law Firm, we have extensive experience handling family law matters such as custody matters and work hard to obtain fair resolutions for our clients. If you are dealing with a custody matter, we can assist you.

Contact our San Diego child custody attorneys to schedule an evaluation of your case today. You can reach us at 800.481.2526 to get started.