Federal Child Custody Laws
Family law matters generally fall under state jurisdiction, including custody. Most U.S. states have adopted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (PDF), which fosters legal cooperation with respect to multi-state custody cases. California child custody laws comply with the Act, while also allowing grandparent visitation rights and joint custody.
Child Custody Laws in California
There are several child custody factors in California to which courts will courts look when deciding on custody cases. The first and most important is your child's best interests. After that, your child's age, health, emotional ties, and ties to school and community are considered, as well as any history of family abuse or neglect. California child custody procedure centers mostly around creating a parenting plan. The parenting plan lays out the details of custody, and should amenable to you and your ex. More importantly, it must be in your child's best interests, otherwise a court will not accept it.
Finally, if your child is living with your ex most of the time, you will generally still have visitation rights in California. There are several types of visitation orders, and, as with custody decisions, the court will decide visitation issues depending on your child's best interests. Over time, either your child's needs or your personal circumstances might change. If so, you can file a Request for Order to modify a previous custody order. Normally, there must be a substantial change in your or your child's circumstances and the modification must be in your child's best interests for the court to modify a custody order.