You can’t imagine life without your children, and, despite his many faults, your ex-spouse is a wonderful father.  The truth is that either of you will do a great job caring for the kids. If this is the case, a joint custody agreement might be the best solution for your family.

Joint custody means you share custody with the other parent.  You can share two types of custody: physical custody and legal custody.

In California, joint physical custody means that both parents have “frequent and substantial contact with the child.”  This may mean that the child spends equal amounts of time in each parent’s home, but there are other options. The child may spend the school year with one parent, and stay with the other parent during vacations. The child may live with mom three weeks at a time and then stay with dad for one week. A physical custody arrangement can be as unique as your family, but joint physical custody usually works best when parents live in the same area.

If you have joint physical custody, you are able to make some of the day-to-day decisions for your child. You don’t need to consult your ex about every play date, but you should let him know about major events, including school vacations, plays, recitals, and illnesses. Likewise, your ex can make some decisions without your input. The parent with legal custody gets to make the major decisions.

Unless there is a good reason not to, California judges tend to grant parents joint legal custody. In joint legal custody, both parents have equal rights and responsibilities for major decisions involving the child.  Major decisions are those that concern where the child lives, the child’s education, religious training, health care, and extracurricular activities. It may be easy to make these decisions if you and your ex have a good relationship and similar views on child-rearing. However, if you have an antagonistic relationship or have strong differences in your views on religion or education, even a decision like whether to allow piano lessons can turn into a battle. If this is the case, the California courts are unlikely to award joint legal custody.

There are many advantages and disadvantages to every custody arrangement. The women-only San Francisco divorce attorneys at The Law Offices of Paul H. Nathan can help you find the California child custody arrangement that is best for you and your family.  

To learn more about your California divorce, request a free copy of Paul Nathan’s book, What Every Woman in California Should Know About Divorce. 

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