Custody and Visitation

Information on Child Custody

Through the handling of many cases involving child custody, HOLMES & HOLMES has come to the conclusion that a brief explanation of family law procedure in California is helpful. This information is not intended as legal advice.

If the issue of child custody should arise in your case, you should be aware of California law in this area. Essentially, the law prefers a “joint legal custody” order, where both parents are involved in major decisions affecting a child, such as major medical procedures, schooling, religious training, and the like. Physical custody of a child is generally awarded to one party based upon the court’s perception of what would be best for the child. The non-custodial parent is then given liberal visitation rights, either on a flexible schedule or on a rigid schedule basis. Some parents arrange a “joint physical custody” plan and share physical custody.

In cases where there is a dispute about physical custody or a visitation schedule, the court will require the parents to meet with a court counselor, informally, to discuss those issues. These meetings are advisory only, but often settle custody and visitation problems. If no settlement is reached, the court can decide the case after listening to the parties, and any witnesses, which may include the child.

Additionally, the court can order an investigation made, at the parties’ expense, by a social worker. Such an investigation is very thorough, and generally includes visits to both homes, interviews with the child, reports from schools and doctors, and interviews with neighbors and character witnesses. After the social worker concludes the investigation a report is sent to the judge who often follows the social worker’s recommendations.