Child Custody Lawyer San Luis Obispo

Legal Custody

Legal custody is the right to make decisions with regard to issues affecting the health, welfare, and education of the minor children. Some examples of these decisions include, enrollment in a particular school or school program, beginning or ending the regular practice of a religion, arranging for child care providers, selecting non-emergency medical, dental or psychological services, and authorizing employment, marriage or enlistment in the Armed Forces.

Joint Legal Custody

Joint legal custody is generally the default position, unless there is a particular reason why this would not be in the children’s best interests. When parents have joint legal custody, day-to-day decision making is made by the parent with whom the children are residing, but the parents must consult and cooperate with each other to reach a mutual agreement on all issues affecting the health, welfare and education of the children. Both parents must be listed as emergency contact persons and as individuals authorized to pick the children up from school or day care. When parents cannot agree as to these decisions, mediation should be attempted prior to resorting to the courts.

Physical Custody

Physical custody determines where the minor children reside. Physical custody can be shared jointly by the parents, or one parent can have sole or primary physical custody. If one parent has sole or primary physical custody, that parent is generally designated the “custodial” parent and the other parent is designated the “noncustodial” parent. The noncustodial parent will generally have visitation with the minor children, unless there are specific reasons why visitation is not appropriate or why visitation should be supervised.

Joint Physical Custody

Regardless of the label put on the custody arrangement, either by the parties or the court, determining whether the parents share joint physical custody will be based on the actual time the children spend with each parent. There must be significant time with each parent for the court to find the parties do in fact share joint physical custody, although no specific percentage is required.


If one parent has sole or primary physical custody and that parent decides to move out of the area, the court will generally give that parent the benefit of the doubt that his or her decision to move is in the best interests of the children. The noncustodial parent would then have the burden of proving that the move is detrimental to the children, rather than just showing that staying is in the children’s best interests. In other words, it is harder for the non-moving parent to stop a move if the non-moving parent does not have physical custody (sole or joint). On the flip side, it is easier for a parent with sole or primary physical custody to move with the children, than a parent who shares joint physical custody.

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