Complete List of Important Child Custody Laws in CA [Must Know California Family Code Sections]

Truth be told, not every California law having to do with child custody regularly comes up in family court. Like any other body of law, California child custody law consists of a handful of highly litigated sections nestled between a whole slew of oft forgotten, rarely disputed rules and codes.

Complete List of the Most Important Child Custody Laws in CA

Going through all of California child custody jurisprudence to learn what you need to know isn’t feasible for most litigants in a custody battle, but it is important to know which rules and code sections regularly come up in family court if you are engaged in a custody battle or think you may be soon. Here is a complete list of the most important child custody laws in California.

Checklist of CA Family Code Sections and Rules You Need to Know About Before Your Custody Hearing in Family Court

  • Joint Custody Defined – Family Code § 3002

The general term “joint custody” means both legal and physical custody.

  • Joint Legal Custody Defined – Family Code § 3003

Joint legal custody means that both parents have an equal right to make important parental decisions.

  • Joint Physical Custody Defined – Family Code § 3004

Joint physical custody means that both parents have significant periods of physical custody. This section also mandates orders for joint physical custody to provide a child with frequent and continuing contact with both parents.

  • Sole Legal Custody Defined – Family Code § 3006

Sole legal custody means that one parent has the right to make decisions concerning the child’s health, education, and welfare without consulting the other parent or obtaining their prior agreement.

  • Sole Physical Custody Defined – Family Code § 3007

Sole physical custody means that the child resides with one parent, and visits the other parent.

  • Parents are Equally Entitled to Child Custody – Family Code § 3010

Without court orders saying otherwise, both legal parents are equally entitled to custody of their child. See Family Code § 7611 for information regarding father’s rights and presumed fathers.

This section is the starting analysis for any custody dispute.

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  • Children Have the Right to be Safe and Free From Abuse – Family Code § 3020

Another highly litigated custody statute, Section 3020 states the fundamental policy of the law to ensure that children have frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents have ended their relationship, and to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities of child rearing.

  • Statement of Reasons for Custody Decision – Family Code § 3022.3

An often ignored provision by child custody lawyers and self-represented parties, following a trial to determine the custody of a child, either parent can request the court issue a statement of decision explaining the factual and legal basis for its decision.

  • Notice to Other Parent of Relocation of Child – Family Code § 3024

This a standard provision in most custody mediation recommendations, and should be included in any child custody stipulation.

  • Parental Access to Medical and School Records – Family Code § 3025

Parents cannot be denied access to a child’s medical, dental, and school records because they do not have custody of their child.

  • Allegations of Child Abuse – Family Code § 3027

Section 3027 empowers courts to make orders to protect children where abuse is alleged, and to cause an investigation to be undertaken by welfare service (not evaluator).

If a court determines, based on the investigation described in Section 3027 or other evidence presented to it, that an accusation of child abuse or neglect made during a child custody proceeding is false and the person making the accusation knew it to be false at the time it was made, the court may impose reasonable money sanctions.

  • Order of Preference for Child Custody – Family Code § 3040

Section 3040 provides the order of preference for custody of children: first to parents, and second to qualified third-parties.

  • Custody of Children to Non-Parents – Family Code § 3041

Section 3041 provides that before making an order granting custody to a nonparent, over the objection of a parent, the court must make a finding that granting custody to a parent would be detrimental to the child and that granting custody to the nonparent is required to serve the best interest of the child, by clear and convincing evidence. Section 3041 is most commonly invoked by adult siblings and grandparents, but it could include any unrelated person.

  • Orders for Drug Testing – Family Code § 3041.5

Family Code section 3041.5 sets forth when a family court can order drug testing.

This is a critical statute that provides a child has a right to speak to the court under certain circumstances and authorizes courts to hear directly from a child in certain situations.

  • Rules for Child Testimony Regarding Parental Preference – California Rules of Court, Rule 5.250

This rule sets forth the procedures and restrictions on how the court can hear and admit the testimony of a child in a custody case.

  • Presumptions Against Custody for Domestic Violence Perpetrator – Family Code § 3044

Family Code section 3044 creates a presumption that a parent who has committed domestic violence within the last 5 years should not have joint or sole legal or physical custody of a child, and that such custody would be detrimental to child.

  • Temporary Custody and Right to Hearing Within 20 Days – Family Code § 3062

This section empowers courts to issue and/or extend emergency or ex parte, temporary custody orders in limited situations.

  • Limits on Ex Parte Change of Custody Orders – Family Code § 3064

Courts are not supposed to make ex parte orders modifying custody except when there is evidence of immediate harm to a child, or that the child will be removed from the State.

  • Presumption When Parents Agree to Joint Custody Orders – Family Code § 3080

There is a presumption that joint custody is in the best interests of a child where the parents have agreed to joint custody in open court.

  • Stepparent Visitation – Family Code § 3101

This section provides that the court may grant reasonable visitation to a stepparent, if visitation by the stepparent is in the best interest of the child.

  • Grandparent Visitation Orders – Family Code § 3103

This section provides that the court may grant reasonable visitation to a grandparent of a child of a party to the proceeding if visitation by the grandparent is in the best interest of the child.

  • Child Custody Evaluation Reports – Family Code § 3111

Family Code section 3111 empowers courts to appoint a person to conduct a limited or general child custody evaluation which is then reported back to the court, and to the parties.

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  • Appointment of Minor’s Counsel – Family Code § 3150

Section 3150 authorizes courts to appoint private counsel to represent the interests of the child in a custody.

  • Separate Custody Counseling Where History of DV or Abuse – Family Code § 3192

A parent who has been the victim of domestic violence by the other parent may meet separately with the child custody mediator.

  • California UCCJEA – Family Code § 3402

The UCCJEA is the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act. It is intended to prevent inconsistent orders in different states and to resolve the question of which state should have jurisdiction over the parents and children.

  • California Temporary Emergency Jurisdiction under UCCJEA – Family Code § 3424

California courts can assert emergency jurisdiction over parents and children prior to the ultimate UCCJEA issues being resolved.

  • Right of Parent to Change Residence of Child (Move-Away) – Family Code § 7501

This is the basic rule that came out of the case In re Marriage of Burgess (1996) 13 Cal.4th 25. This section creates a presumption that parents are entitled to change the residence of a child where such relocation will not prejudice the rights of the other parent or the welfare of the child.

  • No Ex Parte Communication with Child Custody Evaluators – California Rules of Court, Rule 5.235

This rule prohibits ex parte communication between lawyers, or parties, with custody evaluators.

An experienced family law attorney at Talkov Law has the knowledge to help you reach a resolution of your custody and visitation legal issues. Whether reaching a child custody agreement is your goal, or you want a knowledgeable child custody lawyer to fight for you, contact the attorneys at Talkov Law for help.

Attorney Colleen Sparks
About Colleen Talkov

Colleen Talkov is a Partition Attorney at Talkov Law in California. She can be reached at (844) 4-TALKOV (825568) or

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