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Los Gatos child custody attorneyWhen married parents get divorced, or when unmarried parents are separated, they will need to settle a variety of legal issues related to their children. Disputes over child custody can often become heated and contentious, and parents may disagree about how they will make decisions about raising their children, where children will live, and a variety of other matters. When addressing these matters in family court, the decisions made will be based on what is in the children’s best interests. Multiple factors may be considered by the court, including the preferences of the children.

When Can Children’s Opinions Be Considered in a Child Custody Case?

There are two types of custody that will need to be addressed by divorcing or separated parents. Legal custody involves the right and responsibility to make decisions about children’s health, welfare, and education, while physical custody addresses where children will live and the time they will spend in each parent’s care. 

In most cases, California’s family courts usually prefer to have parents share legal custody, although one parent may be granted sole legal custody in some cases. Physical custody may also be shared, or one parent may be granted sole or primary custody, with the other parent being granted visitation time.

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Los Gatos divorce and child custody lawyerMany divorced couples want to co-parent their children in a joint physical custody arrangement but struggle with the amount of coordination it requires. 50/50 parenting time schedules can be hard on the children, too, as they have to move between their parents’ houses regularly. To address this, some parents have opted for a “nesting” arrangement, wherein the children stay in a single home and the parents rotate in and out.

The Pros and Cons of Nesting in California 

Some of the benefits of a nesting arrangement include:

  • Children have the stability of one place to eat, sleep, and play. This can be most beneficial during the early stages of a divorce.
  • Parents save back-and-forth trips for needed items. When a child frequently changes houses, it is too easy to forget or run out of something they need.
  • Only one set of childcare paraphernalia is needed, and it gets to stay in one place. This is especially beneficial during a child’s infant and toddler years. Maintaining two sets of everything--cribs, high chairs, special toys and blankets, special food and bottles, etc.--is costly. 
  • When parents live far apart, it can be easier for the parents to travel to the nesting house than to shift the children back and forth, especially when one parent has the flexibility to work remotely. When the children stay in the nest, parents avoid having to drive or fly the children back and forth or having the children travel unaccompanied.

Nesting can also be problematic in several ways:

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Los Gatos joint child custody lawyerMany divorced parents prefer the idea of joint physical custody of their children versus an arrangement in which one parent has sole physical custody while the other has scheduled visitation. However, when it comes to making it work in the real world, joint physical custody raises a lot of questions. Here are some answers to the most commonly asked questions:

Does Joint Physical Custody Require an Exact 50/50 Split of Time?

Joint physical custody implies a relatively equal split of a child’s time between two parents. However, the law does not require joint custody to be an exact, 50/50 split of calendar days. A time split of 60/40, for example, may still be considered joint physical custody. There is no hard and fast rule. 

Parents should note that, according to the California Child Support Guidelines, child support payments should be calculated based on the actual percentage of time a child spends with each parent.

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Los Gatos legal child custody attorneyWhen making decisions about your post-divorce parenting plan, it is important to understand the difference between joint legal custody and sole legal custody of your children.   

Joint Legal Custody

Having joint legal custody, which is the most common choice in California divorces, means that both parents have the right and responsibility to make decisions about the children. It does not mean the parents have to be in 100% agreement about every decision, but they do have to be willing to discuss these issues calmly and compromise based on the best interests of the children. 

When joint legal custody is ordered, the court documents should specify the situations when the consent of both parents is required and the consequences if one party does not obtain the other’s consent. Such orders should also specify that both parents should have full access to all school and medical records, and that parents must keep each other informed about the children’s location and care decisions.

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California family lawyerIf you have children and are newly divorced, in the process of divorce, or seriously contemplating divorce, the issue of child custody is surely on your mind. You may be anxiously anticipating a contentious court battle, for example. The truth is, however, is that the kind of hostile courtroom scenarios depicted in television and film are not representative of the vast majority of dispute resolution.

Divorce is common and in many cases mutual and free from larger-than-life rancor and, when children are involved, with ex-spouses working together to share custody. Such sharing, in legal terms, is known as “joint custody.” An experienced Sunnyvale family law attorney can help determine whether joint custody is best for you and your children.

Joint Custody Is Conditional on Certain Minimum Criteria

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