For divorcing couples in California who have minor children, there is usually one overriding concern in the case for both soon-to-be ex-spouses: child custody. In many divorce cases, the underlying causes of the split are fairly obvious to all involved, that being that the spouses simply cannot agree on many things and have decided they would be better off apart. But, for parents, they will always have a link through their children. Child custody, therefore, can become the crux of the entire divorce case.

Although every family has unique dynamics to balance, the legal question of child custody boils down to two main parts: “legal” custody and “physical” custody. Even with the facts of any given divorce case being different, these two parts of child custody must be addressed if the case involves minor children.

“Legal” custody refers to who gets to make the important decisions about a child’s life, such as where that child will attend school or church, or even where the child will receive medical treatment. “Physical” custody refers to where the child will actually reside. After all, there aren’t many divorced couples who go on living together after the marriage is ended. As a result, there are choices to make as to where the child will live.

Fortunately, in many cases, divorcing couples are able to negotiate a child custody arrangement that works for all involved and can get the family law court to simply approve the agreed upon arrangement. But, in other cases, courtroom litigation over the issue of child custody is inevitable, as it can become a highly contentious issue in a divorce case.