Parents in California who are getting a divorce might wonder about the different models of child custody that are available. First, parents should understand that there are two types of custody. Physical custody has to do with where the child lives. Legal custody concerns which parent has the ability to make important decisions about the child’s life regarding issues such as religion, education and health care. One parent may have sole legal and physical custody of the child, or the parents may share joint custody in some way.

There are many different approaches to joint custody. Parents might even keep their family home and take turns living in it while the children remain there. A more common option is alternating custody; this involves the child either alternating weeks or days with each parent.

In a serial custody arrangement, one parent may have primary custody for several years before switching with the other parent. The drawback with this setup is that children could be prevented from developing a robust relationship with both parents. Finally, third-party custody may occur if both parents are unfit and the child is placed with a relative.

When a judge makes a decision about child custody, the criteria used is the best interests of the child. Parents can negotiate a child custody agreement instead of going before a judge and use the same criteria. Parents can also work with their attorneys to create a parenting agreement that addresses any concerns they might have about any number of issues, including when to introduce the child to new partners, when the child’s bedtime should be and who is responsible for getting the child to extracurricular activities.