It is the policy of California divorce law to assure minor children frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents have separated. Parents are encouraged to share the rights and responsibilities of child rearing in order to effect this policy. The law requires judges to award custody according to the "best interests of your child(ren)" considering their health, safety, and welfare.
You and your spouse will likely have both "joint legal custody" and "joint physical custody." Joint legal custody means both parents share the right and responsibility to make decisions relating to the health, education, and welfare of the children. Joint physical custody may mean that the children spend time living with each parent base on what is called a "parenting plan."
If you and your spouse are unable to reach an agreement on a parenting plan, a judge will establish an order for you. The best solution is for you both to agree on custody and visitation with your children. In most cases, a judge will approve a child custody plan that both parents want. To facilitate agreements between you and your spouse, the court provides a mediator through the county’s Family Conciliation Services Department who will meet with you and your spouse to assist in arriving at a parenting plan. Absent an agreement, the mediator will make recommendations to the judge which will be considered in making a child-custody order. If you desire, the court will also consider the recommendations of private mediators such as your marriage counselor, psychologist, or other licensed professional.
Richard M. Renkin is a divorce attorney and Certified Family Law Specialist, and the founder of Richard M. Renkin & Associates in San Diego.