Joint vs. Sole Custody

Joint vs. Sole Legal Custody

Child Custody Lawyer in Westlake Village & Thousand Oaks

The differences between joint and sole custody of minor children involve the rights and responsibilities of making decisions and taking actions relative to the health, education and welfare of the minor children. In California, it is rare for one parent to be granted sole legal custody. Most parents have what is termed "joint legal custody," in which both parents have rights and responsibilities regarding critical decisions, such as where the child will attend school, whether or not to undergo medical treatments or procedures, and the many other decisions affecting the general welfare of the children.

Should I seek sole legal custody?

If you are involved in a divorce or child custody case, and are seeking legal counsel to navigate through the state laws regarding custody, as well as the extensive court requirements in a divorce or child custody litigation matter, please call our law firm today. At Richard Ross Associates, we are fully qualified to handle any custody matter, no matter how complex or contested.

We have been in the business of representing clients and protecting their legal rights in child custody disputes for over 40 years. As an expert family law attorney, board-certified by the State Bar of California, Richard Ross is unsurpassed by any other divorce lawyer in Thousand Oaks or Westlake Village, in his knowledge and expertise regarding child custody.

Seeking counsel is a wise and responsible thing to do when facing a custody dispute over your children. Whether or not to fight for sole custody is a question that can best be answered by a seasoned, highly trained family law attorney who has been there before, and can advise you of the likelihood of success, as well as plan a strategy that could be more effective in achieving a positive outcome.

Contact us today for an initial evaluation of your case.


  • I heartily recommend him to anybody in need of a well qualified, results-oriented, family law specialist.

    “I would not hesitate to, again, retain the legal services of Richard Ross.”

  • Our family and our dignity have been restored.

    “Mr. Ross and his supportive, competent staff put their hearts into their work and literally turned our lives around.”

  • The results far exceeded my expectations.

    “The entire staff at Richard Ross Associates really helped me through my divorce and they were with me the whole way.”

  • Extremely thorough and professional!

    “Richard has helped me through a very difficult divorce and I can't say enough good things about him.”

  • Polite, caring, and quick to respond.

    “Richard Ross is a subject matter expert in the field of family law.”


  • This is very important: If you have separated from your spouse before one of you has filed for dissolution of marriage or legal separation, avoid agreeing to and placing into effect a temporary parenting plan arrangement regarding the children unless you will be able to live with this arrangement after the divorce papers have been filed. Once you begin a parenting plan that seems to be working, it becomes the "status quo." It is very difficult to convince a mediator or judge to change the status quo, especially if it is working or appears to be working and is not detrimental to the minor children.
  • If you have not received a judgment dissolving your marriage before the end of the year, you may file an individual tax return under the status of "married, filing separately" or a joint tax return with your spouse. You should consult your accountant as to the advantages of these options. You may obtain special information booklets regarding tax information for divorce or separated individuals from your local IRS office or read the IRS booklet online.
  • To file an action for divorce, also known as dissolution of marriage, a person must have resided in the state of California for six months and in the county where the action is filed for three months prior to filing the petition in court. This is true of either the petitioner or the respondent - either person can meet the test and allow a filing. If your spouse meets the residency requirement, you can file even if you do not meet it yourself.
  • The court can and usually will order you to move out of your residence if your spouse convinces the court that you have been violent toward your spouse or threatened your spouse. You could be given ex-parte notice to be in court the next day because your spouse is seeking an order to make you move out and stay out. You can be ordered to leave immediately and not return even if your spouse is not on the property title or lease agreement! Once you are ordered to leave, it is not likely that you will be allowed to return.
  • Before you get a divorce, photocopy all relevant financial documents that you can obtain and store them off-site with a trusted friend or relative. Do not store them in the trunk of your car where they can easily be found and removed by your spouse. There may be both personal and strategic reasons not to tip off your spouse that documents are being reviewed for a possible dissolution proceeding. Make copies of documents that you find in the residence and return the original documents to their original location as soon as possible so that your spouse won't notice that they are missing. It is often advisable to make the photocopies when you are sure your spouse is away for an extended time, such as during a workday. It is advisable to gather as many relevant financial documents as possible while they are still available and before they have been removed or destroyed by your spouse. This will significantly reduce the cost of divorce litigation if the documents do not have to be recovered later. It will also permit us to get a true picture of all community assets and debts as soon as possible.