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Los Gatos child custody attorneyIn a divorce involving children, one of the most important decisions you will make is, “Who has legal custody of the children?”

The Difference Between Legal Custody and Physical Custody 

Legal custody and physical custody are two separate issues. Physical custody refers to where the children will live. Legal custody describes who has the right to make major decisions about the lifestyle and care of minor children. This article will focus strictly on the definition of legal custody. 

Legal Custody in California

Under California law, the person(s) with legal custody has the right and responsibility to make critical decisions for the minor children, including: 

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Los Gatos summary divorce attorneyOnce you have made the difficult decision to file for divorce, you probably want to complete the process as quickly as possible. Below are a few facts to help you understand the timeline for a California divorce:

Residency Requirements for Divorce

Before you can get a divorce in California, you must have been a resident of the state for at least six months, and a resident of the county in which you file for divorce for at least three months.

Waiting Period After Filing for a California Divorce

The first step in the divorce process is for one spouse to file a petition for dissolution of marriage in their county court. The petition must then be served upon the other spouse. California law requires that a minimum of six months pass between the date when the petition was served on the other spouse and the termination date of the marriage.

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CA family lawyerIn the past, families typically consisted of a married mother and father with one or more children. However, many of today’s families are much more complicated. Parents may be unmarried, or they may have divorced and remarried, with multiple children from different relationships. In addition, children may be born to or adopted by parents in same-sex relationships. Due to the complex nature of modern families, establishing legal paternity/parentage for children is more important than ever. However, a child’s putative parent may not be the actual parent, and in these cases, they should understand their options for disputing paternity.

Methods for Disputing Parentage

A parent who wishes to dispute a child’s paternity must follow different procedures depending on whether and how paternity was previously established. In many cases, parents will voluntarily sign a Declaration of Paternity form when the child is born. If the parentage of the child comes into question after signing this form, either parent may file a Declaration of Paternity Rescission form within 60 days after the Declaration of Paternity form was signed. The other parent will be served with a copy of the petition, and a court hearing will be held. Genetic testing may be ordered to determine the child’s biological parentage.

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CA family lawyerWhen parents decide to get divorced, or when they are unmarried, determining who will have responsibility for their children can often be a contentious matter to resolve. Disputes over child custody can be highly emotional, and the decisions made in these cases will affect parents’ and children’s lives and relationships for years to come. When working to resolve these issues, it is important to understand how California law affects the decisions made.

California Child Custody Laws

California law recognizes two types of child custody: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody involves decision-making authority for children, including medical, dental, or mental health treatments; educational choices, such as where they will go to school; extracurricular activities they will participate in; whether they will attend church or be involved in religious activities; and other decisions related to their general welfare. Physical custody involves where children will live and spend their time.

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CA family lawyerParents are required to provide financial support for their children, whether they are married, unmarried, separated, or divorced. When parents do not live together, one parent will typically be required to pay child support to the other parent to ensure that children’s needs are met. The amount of child support is determined following the guidelines defined in California law, and it is based on the amount of income earned by both parents, as well as the amount of time children spend with each parent.

California’s Child Support Formula

Prior to calculating child support, each parent’s disposable monthly income should first be determined. Disposable income is calculated by taking a parent’s gross income and subtracting allowable deductions, which include state and federal income tax, mandatory union dues and retirement benefits, health insurance premiums, previously-ordered child support payments, and hardship deductions, if applicable.

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