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Divorce has become a reality of modern life in California, and, sadly, in many cases, it is the children that are most traumatized. However, couples who can communicate about what is in the best interest of the child may limit the effect of the divorce on the child. Understanding the state laws related to child custody and child support may also ease the process. An immediate concern about who will have child custody is only natural.

The child will live with the parent who has physical custody, and important decisions about matters such as health care, education and religion will be made by the parent who has legal custody. Having joint legal custody allows both parents to participate in the decision-making process. When both parents have joint physical custody, parenting time will be split to allow each parent to take care of the child for at least 40 percent of the time.

Parents may negotiate a parenting plan and present it to the court for approval. If they fail to agree, the court will consider various factors before making a ruling. These include the child's relationship with each parent and the physical and psychological health of both parents. A child will also be protected against a parent who has a history of alcohol or drug abuse or dependency or domestic violence. Depending on a child's age, the judge may consider his or her wishes and preferences.

California parents may find that the experience of skilled family law attorneys can be helpful. They can provide valuable input and ensure all matters are addressed when child custody is discussed. If couples struggle to communicate, a lawyer can arrange the support of an experienced family law mediator who will provide a platform to allow parents to discuss their concerns peacefully.

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