Many parents are expressing concern and anxiety about how strict quarantine measures may impact their custody arrangements. Communication with your ex-spouse is critical in deciding what visitation schedule works best for the safety of your family. If this issue creates conflict it’s important to remember that the custody laws are clear and any interference with visitation is taken seriously by the court.
In California, there is a distinction between physical and legal custody. If a parent has sole legal custody that parent has the exclusive right and responsibility to make decisions about the health, education, and welfare of the child.
If a parent is awarded sole physical custody, the child resides with that parent and is under that parent’s supervision. If parents share joint legal custody then both parents are legally entitled to make such a decision. The court may order visitation to the parent who does not have physical custody.
The court can grant custody of the children to both parents which is joint custody or by one parent, which is sole custody. California also distinguishes between physical and legal custody and there are a variety of different scenarios:
- A parent may have sole legal and sole physical custody.
- A parent may have joint legal and sole physical custody.
- The parents may share both legal and physical custody.
- The parents may share physical custody while one parent has sole legal custody.
Physical custody refers to where your kids spend their time. Joint physical custody is sometimes referred to as shared physical custody. If one parent is awarded sole physical custody than the other parent is typically awarded significant visitation. Parents will need to come up with detailed schedules for the days of the week, school breaks, summer and winter holidays and vacations.
The state does not make a presumption that favors any particular type of custody arraignment. Instead, both the court and the family are granted “the widest discretion” to establish a parenting plan that protects and ensures the best interests of the child. This is where open and effective dialog is important in establishing how your family will handle visitation during this unprecedented situation.
As you deal with custody issues in your divorce, keep your children’s developmental and emotional needs in mind at all times. Custody arrangements can often change as the children become older or circumstances change like the need for extended isolation. Both parents should recognize that regardless of the physical custody arrangement reached at the time of divorce, it’s more important to arrange a physical custody and visitation schedule based on the needs of your children, rather than your own needs.
This period of imposed isolation is nerve-wracking for everyone in the family. It’s imperative to keep your children’s health and wellbeing a priority. Try to find solutions such as scheduled Facetime chats or extending visitation periods once the stay-at-home order is lifted. Parents should try to find a compromise in this time of crisis that will help alleviate stress for your children.