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1. What is “custody and visitation”?
When you separate or divorce, you need to decide who will have “custody” of your children and how
they will be taken care of.  You also need to decide on visitation, which means how each parent will
spend time with the children.  
There are two kinds of "
custody" orders:

  • Legal custody, which means to who makes important decisions for your children (health care,
    education, and welfare), and  
  • Physical custody, which means who your children live with.

Visitation” (also called “time-share”) is:

  • the plan for how the parents will share time with the children.

In California, either parent can have custody, or the parents can share custody. The judge makes the
final decision about custody and visitation but usually will approve the arrangement both parents
agree on.
If the parents can't agree, the judge will make a decision at a court hearing. The judge will usually not
make a decision about custody/visitation until after the parents have met with a mediator from Family
Court Services.

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