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California Child Custody Laws

California Child Custody Laws

Parents must come to an agreement on child custody when they separate. These arrangements include how they will make major decisions concerning their child moving forward (referred to as "legal custody") and how they will share time with the child (referred to as "parenting time," "timesharing," or "physical custody," depending on the state). If parents are unable to come to an agreement, courts will decide the best course of action based on the state's child custody laws.

All states, except Massachusetts, adhere to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). This article provides a general overview of child custody laws in the state of California.

Child Custody Laws in California: At a Glance

Each state has its own child custody laws. See FindLaw's extensive Child Custody section for more articles and resources. The following chart highlights the basics of California child custody laws.

Code Section

§ 3400 et seq. of the California Code, Family Code

Year Uniform Child Custody Act Adopted (UCCJEA)


Joint Custody an Option?

Yes, Fam. § 3080 assumes a presumption of joint custody

Grandparent Visitation Rights Recognized?

Yes, Fam. §§ 3103 and 3104

Child's Own Wishes Considered?


Note: State laws are always subject to change at any time, usually through the enactment of new statutes but sometimes through higher court decisions or other means. You may want to contact a California child custody attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Child Custody in California

There are several child custody factors in California courts must consider when deciding custody cases. The first, and most important, is your child's best interests. After that, your child's age, health, emotional ties, and ties to school and community are considered, as well as any history of family abuse or neglect. California child custody procedure centers mostly around creating a parenting plan. The parenting plan lays out the details of custody. More importantly, it must be in your child's best interests, otherwise, a court will not accept it.

Finally, if your child is living with your ex most of the time, you will generally still have physical custody in California. There are several types of visitation orders, and, as with custody decisions, the court will decide visitation issues depending on your child's best interests. Over time, either your child's needs or your personal circumstances might change. If so, you can file a request to modify the custody order.

Get Legal Help with Child Custody in California

If you and your ex are separating, you might not agree on who gets custody of the child or what the custody arrangement should look like. There are many factors to consider in these determinations, but the court's primary concern will be the child's best interests. One of the best ways to get a handle on the process is to seek guidance from an experienced family law attorney.

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