Child Custody and Visitation

When faced with this the difficult issue of Child custody, it is important to understand the basic terminology and procedure.

Physical Custody vs. Legal Custody

Often, parents are not aware of the differences between physical and legal custody. Physical custody refers to the right to have the child live with the person awarded custody by the court. The court may award, or the parents may stipulate to custody. Legal custody refers to any decisions that affect the child’s education, health, and welfare.

Joint Legal Custody refers to an arrangement by which both parents share the responsibility and authority over the child at all times, even though one parent may exercise primary physical custody. In other words, even though one parent may have primary custody (more than 50% physical custody), all decisions relating to the child’s health, education, and welfare are to be made by both parties, unless otherwise ordered by the court.

When evaluating a custody request, the court must consider the “best interests of the child.” In determining the best interest of the child, the court shall, among any other factors it finds relevant, consider: (a) the health, safety, and welfare of the child; (b) any history of abuse by one parent, partner, or cohabitant; (c) the nature and amount of contact with both parents; and (d) the habitual or continual illegal use of controlled substances or alcohol.


Visitation can be requested or ordered at any time. The court maintains jurisdiction to award visitation under numerous circumstances. It can be awarded to parents during a pending divorce or to parents who were never married. Supervised or unsupervised visitation can also be awarded pending a restraining order. Visitation can be awarded to grandparents or other relatives.

Visitation is sometimes viewed as a subcategory of child custody, but in actuality it is a more sophisticated and complicated subcategory of family law. Visitation may also be modified or requested after a prior order is in place and can be requested when a parent is trying to reunify with his or her child.

Our Firm is dedicated to helping parents obtain or maintain child custody orders in order to fulfill the best interests of their children. The Law Firm of Rice & Rice has over 25 years of practice in the area of family law and child custody matters. We serve all of Riverside, Orange, San Bernardino, and Los Angeles Counties. To talk to an experienced attorney in the area of child custody and visitation, please contact us today online or by telephone at 951-683-2297.