Many people come into my office, and I overhear them in court, stating that he/she wants “full custody” of the children. At law in California, there is no such thing as “full custody.” This post, and the next couple of blog posts, are intended to help people understand what the law can and cannot provide in regards to custody, using appropriate legal terms, and how mediation and the courts work within these parameters.
Parents who go to court about child custody and visitation face decisions about parenting plans for their children.
What is a parenting plan?
A parenting plan describes how the parents will divide their responsibilities for taking care of their child. The plan may include a general or specific schedule of days, times, weekends, holidays, vacations, transportation, pick-up/drop-off, limits on travel, counseling, treatment services, and other details.
What are legal and physical custody?
A parenting plan usually includes:
Legal Custody: how the parents make major decisions about the child’s health, education, and welfare.
Physical Custody: where the child lives; and
Timeshare or visitation: when the child spends time with each parent.
Legal and physical custody may each be specified as “joint,” meaning both parents have certain responsibilities, or “sole,” meaning one parent has all the responsibility for the child.
Can you make your own parenting plan?
You have a right to make a parenting plan agreement on your own with the other parent. This agreement may be called a stipulation, time-share plan, or parenting plan. If both parents can agree on a parenting plan, the judge will probably approve it. The agreement becomes a court order after it is signed by both parents and the judge, and filed with the court.
See next week’s blog for information on what happens if you and the other parent cannot reach an agreement on a parenting plan.