It is widely accepted that the best environment for a child to grow up in is a household with two loving parents. For many this is not the reality as almost half of today’s marriages in California end in divorce. Courts once thought that the best scenario in the event of a divorce was giving full custody to the mother. However, recognition that a loving father plays a crucial role in promoting the well-being of the child is causing more courts to treat the parents as equal partners as much as possible. The best interest of the child is the court’s first concern.

There are two types of custody, legal and residential. Residential is typically focused on where the child sleeps. This can be one parent or the other, or both in a true shared custody situation. An equal division of parenting time, where practical, is the goal of many courts. Legal custody has to do with making decisions for one’s child for everything such as health care, education, school activities and religion to name a few.

Parents can work out custody arrangements independent of the court. When court gets involved, according to a recent study, judges are granting shared custody more often than in years past. In 1980, mothers were granted sole custody about 80 percent of the time. By 2008, over a decade ago, that number had already dropped to 42 percent.

Divorce is not easy on anyone. It can be particularly difficult for young children who may have difficulty understanding the change in the family dynamic. Where custody arrangements are concerned, parents will most often have the best interest of the child in mind. A parent considering divorce in California may wish to consult with an experienced family law attorney regarding options concerning legal and physical custody.