In a divorce or child custody case, the terms "custody" and "visitation" have specific legal definitions in the State of California.

What is the difference between "legal custody" and "physical custody"?

In California, different parents can be awarded "legal" and "physical" custody of their child, parents can be awarded joint legal and/or physical custody, or one single parent can be awarded both legal and physical custody of a minor child.

Legal custody: The parent granted legal custody of the child is the legal decision-maker when it comes to the child's health, safety, education and welfare. The parent awarded legal custody can make the decision about which school the child will attend (including private vs. public schools), what doctor they will see, and can make medical decisions on behalf of the child.

Physical custody: Physical custody determines where a child will live. Generally parents will be awarded either joint or a split percentage of physical custody of their child, unless there are extenuating circumstances like violence or substance abuse issues on the part of one parent, which makes the other a more stable and safer home for the child.

What is "visitation"?

Visitation is a schedule, determined by the parents and their attorneys, and/or determined by the court. This schedule lays out the days that the child will spend with each parent and may include things such as pick-up and drop-off times, pick-up and drop-off locations, the names of any third-party intermediaries who will mediate drop-offs or pick-ups, as well as schedules for holidays and weekends.

Because there are several different options for custody awards, it is extremely important to have an attorney on your side who is a family law expert. Today courts are more gender-blind than ever before, and often award joint legal and physical custody to parents who can co-parent civilly and safely. The Law Office of Steven M. Bishop has been assisting Southern California parents gain custody of their children during divorces or parental disputes for nearly 40 years. A career family-law expert, Mr. Bishop is also a seasoned father's rights attorney who helps father's assert their rights to their children. Whether you are interested in sharing custody with your former partner, want to pursue full or sole physical and/or legal custody of your child, need help amending a current in-place court order or divorce decree or have any other questions about child custody, call our office today for a free consultation!

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