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Child Custody

The divorce courts have broad power to order custody arraignments that are necessary and proper. The judges are required to adhere to certain guidelines set forth in the family law code. The family law judges have two "primary concerns" according to the law. They must consider: (1) Safety and welfare of the child and (2) Frequent contact with both parents. That means if there is child abuse, domestic violence, or drug use by either of the parents then child custody would weight in favor of the other parent. However, the courts are encouraged to make sure that both parents have frequent and continuing contact with their children... except, where contact may not be in the child's best interest.

There are many different variations to the types of orders a court can give:

Exclusive Custody: One parent has both physical and legal custody over the child. The other parent might have visitation rights, but will have no say regarding the child's health, residence, education and welfare.

Sole Physical Custody: The custodial parent would have physical custody subject to the visitation rights of the non–custodial parent. However, both parents are involved in the decision making process for the child.

Sole Legal Custody: One parent can be awarded the right to make all the decisions regarding health, welfare and education of the child. However, the parent with sole legal custody would not have the right to exclusively decide the child's residence.

Joint Legal Custody: Both parents share in the decision making regarding the child's health, safety, welfare and education.

Joint Physical Custody: Both parents get significant periods of time with the child. However, this doesn't mean that each parent gets 50% custody. The purpose is to make sure each parent gets frequent and continuing contact.



The courts are required to make custody orders that are in the child's best interest. There are no hard and fast rules, but the following criteria must be considered:

1.    Child's health, safety and welfare
2.    History of physical abuse
3.    History of drug use
4.    Criminal history
5.    Stability of the environment
6.    Child's wishes
7.    Separation of siblings

If you around Modesto or Stockton area and you need a family law attorney, contact us today!

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