Child Custody and Visitation

Legal Custody:

Legal custody determines which parent will make decisions concerning the child's or children's health, safety, education, and welfare. One parent can make these decisions alone, which is known as sole legal custody, or both parents may retain the right to make these decisions, known as joint legal custody. Joint legal custody means both parents should cooperate on decision-making, but that either parent has the power to make decisions alone. Sole legal custody means only one parent can make decisions and obtain information from the child's or children's school and doctor, for example.

Physical Custody:

Physical custody determines where the child or children will reside. Sole physical custody means the child or children live with one parent and may visit the other parent. Joint physical custody means the child or children reside with both parents. In the case of joint physical custody, if one parent will have the child more than half of the time, then that parent can be labeled the primary custodial parent for tax and other purposes.

Unsupervised Visitation:

The parent who does not have the child or children more than half of the time is entitled to visitation with the child or children. Visitation plans should be specific in order to avoid potential conflicts and eliminate confusion. In developing a specific visitation plan, keep in mind that it can be helpful to be specific about which weeks of the month the visits will occur to make the plan more enforceable. For example, if a parent will have the child or children every other weekend, it would be helpful to define that specifically as the 1st, 3rd, and 5th (or the 2nd and 4th) weekend of the month. The pick-up and drop-off times may also be specific, such as Friday at 3:00 p.m. to Sunday at 6:00 p.m.

Supervised Visitation:

This option is used when the child's or children's safety and well-being require that visits with a parent be supervised by the other parent, another adult, or a professional agency.

No Visitation:

This option is used in extreme situations in which contact with the parent would be physically or emotionally harmful to the child.

Child Custody Mediation

The Office of Family Court Services 

FCS performs Confidential Mediation and Child Custody Recommending Counseling for parties who have an established case in Sacramento County. It also provides assessments for under-age marriage permissions, and emancipation evaluations upon court referral. These services are provided free of charge by experienced Family Court Counselors (or Mediators) who have Master's Degrees, specialized training, and experience working with children and families. The areas of specialized training include, but are not limited to conflict resolution, parenting techniques, children's developmental stages, domestic violence, substance abuse, and child abuse and neglect.

All services provided by FCS are confidential. However, by law, the Mediator will disclose information about your case if they suspect that someone is at imminent risk of harm. Specifically, if the Mediator suspects that a child has been abused or neglected, they will file a report with Child Protective Services or a law enforcement agency. Likewise, if they think that one of the people involved in the case may hurt himself/herself or someone else, they will contact a law enforcement agency and warn the threatened person.

Grandparent Visitation

A Complaint for Grandparent Visitation is used by a grandparent who wants to visit his or her grandchildren, but one or both parents are not permitting the visitation to occur.