There are many decisions to be made during a California divorce, but none are as important as the issue of child custody. Deciding with whom the child will live is a big decision. In order to do what’s best for your child, it’s important that you understand the difference between physical and legal child custody in California.

Physical custody refers to with which parent the child lives. When the child lives with one parent full-time, that parent has sole physical custody. If the child splits her time between the homes of two parents, the parents have joint physical custody. The parent with whom the child is living gets to make the day-to day decisions: Can I go on the class field trip? Can Katie come over? What is for lunch today?

Physical custody is not the same as legal custody. The parent with legal child custody, has the power to make long-term decisions on behalf of the child. This includes decisions about schooling, religion, discipline, and health care.

If you have sole physical custody and joint legal custody, it means that your child lives with you. You get to make daily decisions about school, extracurricular activities, and friends, but you can’t move to another state or change churches without your ex’s consent.

There are advantages and disadvantages to each arrangement. Your San Francisco divorce lawyer will help you find the arrangement that works for you.

It is always best if you and your ex can agree on a custody arrangement. If you can’t, your California divorce lawyer will try to negotiate with your ex’s attorney to find an arrangement that works for you and your children. If an agreement can’t be made, the judge in Family Court will make the final decision.

San Francisco divorce attorney Paul Nathan wrote a book to help you make important decisions about divorce and child custody. Request a free copy of What Every Woman in California Should Know About Divorce. To schedule an appointment, contact the Law Offices of Paul H. Nathan at 866-414-4091.