Child custody in California addresses two key components: legal custody and physical custody. A right to physical custody is often what most people think of first. They want to know how often they get to have the child live with them, in their care. That schedule is a physical custody schedule.
The other side of things is just as important, though. Legal custody means making choices and decisions on your child's behalf. You can have legal custody without physical custody. Some of the decisions you may need to make include:
- What religious upbringing the child will have
- If the child will get vaccinated
- What other medical care the child will get and where he or she will go for that care
- What school the child will attend
- What day care the child will go to or what other child care solution will be used
- What type of mental health needs the child has, such as a need for therapy or medication
- What sports the child can play
- What other school activities the child can be involved in
- Where the child will go for things like summer camp or extracurricular activities
- Where the child can go on vacation
- Where the child's residence will be
There is obviously some overlap here. You may have a legal right to decide where the child lives with you, but if you also have shared physical custody, your ex then has a say in where the child lives with him or her.
The key is to make sure you know all of the areas that custody covers and exactly what legal rights you have.