Rights of Parents With Sole Physical Custody in California

By Victoria McGrath

California courts can award sole physical custody to one parent or joint physical custody to both parents, based on the best interest of the child. The California Family Code does not favor either joint or sole custody. In California, sole physical custody is also called primary physical custody. Sole physical custody includes the right to control the child's whereabouts, housing arrangements, school enrollment, after school care, medical and dental appointments, holiday and vacation plans. However, sole physical custody does not automatically give the parent sole legal custody, which is the right to make all critical decisions over the child's life. Sole legal custody would need to be included in the custody order. The court order should outline each parent's child custody or visitation rights.

Custodial Parent and Noncustodial Parent

California courts can order sole physical custody and sole legal custody, or sole physical custody with shared legal custody. A parent with sole physical custody has a right to collect child support from a child's noncustodial parent, regardless of whether they still share legal custody. The noncustodial parent still maintains the right to communicate with the child on a frequent basis as a result of his court-approved visitation. The noncustodial parent can lose these parental rights in certain situations, for example, due to a prolonged absence from the child's life or child abuse.

Sole Physical Custody With Sole Legal Custody

A parent with sole physical custody and sole legal custody holds exclusive rights to physically take care of the child and to legally make critical decisions that effect the child's safety, health and welfare. The court must consider the best interest of the child before it awards sole physical custody or sole legal custody to one parent. Once the court awards sole physical custody to one parent, that parent has the right to control the physical care of the child without the need to consult the other parent. Once sole legal custody is ordered to one parent, that parent also has the right to make all other decisions over the child's life, without the other parent's approval.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Sole Physical Custody With Shared Legal Custody

Sole physical custody with shared legal custody presents more challenges than sole physical custody with sole legal custody. If a parent holds sole physical and legal custody, he never needs to seek the other parent's approval before making a decision about the child's living arrangements, school enrollment, educational plans, medical treatment or religious instruction. If a parent possesses only sole physical custody, the shared legal custody between both parents might affect the sole physical custody. For example, a mother with sole physical custody has the right to enroll her child in a religious preschool for child care. However, the father with shared legal custody can raise objections over the religious instruction at the school. Part of legal custody includes the right to make decisions over religious upbringing.

Sole Physical Custody and Child Visitation Rights

Under sole physical custody, the child resides with one parent all the time. That parent has the right to decide the child's residence and daily routine. The custodial parent can generally travel in state, out-of-state and out of the country with the child, unless restricted by a court order. A noncustodial parent is limited to approved court visitation. In California, a noncustodial parent does have a right to frequent contact and regular visitation with the child. A court may order supervised visitation or no visitation under extreme circumstances of abuse or abandonment. The decision must always be made in the best interest of the child.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
Baby Visitation Rights

References

Related articles

California Joint Legal & Physical Custody Rights

If you want to protect your right to joint legal and physical custody of your child, resolve any custody disputes in advance and present a detailed parenting plan to the court. After you file for divorce or legal separation, plan to meet with a family court mediator to work out the custody arrangements and schedule parenting time. In California, the judge approves joint custody when it is in the best interest of the child.

Father's Child Custody Rights When the Child's Mother Is Mentally Ill

Mental illness can affect not only a person's life, but those around them as well. For that reason, courts take mental disorders seriously in deciding child custody matters. However, state law also recognizes the importance of having both parents involved in a child's life, as well as a parent's right to raise a child without the government interfering. Understanding how a mother's mental illness can factor into a custody determination will help you properly exercise you rights as a father.

Michigan Child Custody Laws & Moving Restrictions

Relocation plans often result in conflict between divorced parents if one parent wants to move away with the children. As part of a parental relocation, known as a change of residence in Michigan, a parent may need to obtain court approval before moving. In some cases, the other parent may ask the court to restrict the move. However, some moves do not require court approval.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

What Does "Sole Custody With the Final Say" Mean?

Family law judges issue court orders over child custody of minor children during legal proceedings, including legal ...

Divorce & Child Custody Family Law in California

California spouses can agree to the terms of their divorce, including child custody, or they can allow the court to ...

Visitation Rights During Separation

No parent possesses a legal right to deny the other parent visitation rights when they are informally separated, yet ...

Child Custody Rights for 12 Years & Older

Establishing child custody can be a highly contentious aspect of divorce. Although each parent may feel entitled to a ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED