When you’re creating a California parenting plan, you may concentrate on developing a schedule for parenting time. Also called visitation, parenting time refers to the amount of time a parent gets to spend with their child. In many cases, creating a parenting plan requires working out a highly detailed schedule for which parent gets the child on which weekends and holidays, who will drop off the child at school and other activities, who will pick them up, and so on.
All those logistical details can mean a lot of work, but there’s another aspect of child custody that’s at least as important: You must determine how you and the other parent will make important parenting decisions.
Physical and legal custody
Parenting isn’t just about providing a roof over a child’s head.
California law distinguishes between physical and legal custody of children. Physical custody refers to visitation rights and responsibilities. Legal custody refers to the rights and responsibilities involved in making important parenting decisions. These decisions may involve education, extracurricular activities, vacations and travel, religious practice, physical and mental health care, and many other topics.
Sole or joint custody
Just as parents can have sole or joint physical custody of their children, they can also have sole or joint legal custody. If they are going to share legal custody, it means they will have to consult each other before making important decisions. (Here we should note that decisions about emergency medical care represent an exception. No one should have to delay emergency care to a child while they’re waiting to hear back from the other parent.)
Inevitably, there will be times when parents disagree about one of these decisions. Ultimately, a court may have to decide the most difficult disputes. However, it may be a good idea to include some instructions for dispute resolution when creating your parenting plan.