Focusing On Family Law – And You
For the most part, a divorce severs the legal relationship between spouses. After the paperwork is final, the two parties may never see each other again, unless they want to.
There are a couple important exceptions to this principle, however. The first is if the ex-spouses have any lingering property division issues or a spousal support order, also known as alimony. The second is the really big one: If the divorce couple has young children, they will need to continue to work together on parenting issues for years to come.
Parenting isn’t easy, even when the parents are married, living together and getting along. After a divorce, parenting can become harder in many ways. To ease the process, California law calls for divorced parents to develop a parenting plan.
Types of custody
A good parenting plan spells out an agreement involving the two types of child custody under California law: physical custody and legal custody. Each parent has rights to both.
- Physical custody refers to the right to spend time with the child. California often uses the term “parenting time.” This can mean living with the child or just visiting.
- Legal custody refers to the right to make important decisions about the child’s upbringing. For instance, parents have the right to make decisions about their child’s education and medical care.
A good parenting plan lays out the ground rules for both these types of custody, deciding certain issues in advance. For instance, the plan might provide that the child stays at one parent’s home 10 nights per month or more. It might go into more detail, specifying which days of the month the child stays with which parent, and providing times and locations for child drop-offs and pickups.
The plan also must take into account each parent’s legal custody rights, and so it may provide that the parents must consult with each other about medical appointments or school changes.
Adapting to changes
It can be good to get into the details with a parenting plan, but it’s important to note that the plan must be adaptable. Life can throw big changes at parents, and a child’s needs may change greatly after the ink is dry on a parenting plan. The parents may need to reconsider some of the provisions in their agreement.
An experienced attorney can help parents understand their options.