Many parents choose to work through child custody issues independently, but if they aren’t able to reach an agreement on their own, the courts step in. California courts focus on making all child custody decisions based on what they perceive is in the best interest of the child. However, determining what is in a child’s best interest can be extremely unclear and difficult to measure. If you are handling a child custody dispute through the court, it is important to understand what factors could influence the judge’s decision in regards to child custody agreements or modifications.
Whether you are currently seeking a divorce, separated, or otherwise independent from your child’s other parent, working through the legalities of co-parenting can be extremely complex. Coming up with your own parenting plan can be easier and may help you avoid court, however, not all parents are able to negotiate without the help of a third party. This’s where the courts come in.
Child Custody in California
When you go to court for help with a child custody issue, they will look at several different factors in order to determine what custody arrangement would work in the best interest of the child. If the child has faced any abuse, health problems, or other serious issues, the court will want to know about it.
California courts will consider the following factors before making any child custody decisions:
- The child’s age
- The child’s emotional, physical, and mental health
- The child’s emotional relationship with either parent
- Each parent’s ability to care for the child (emotionally, physically, and financially)
- Any history of violence or substance abuse associated with either parent
- If parents live in different areas, the connections the child has to either community, school, or home
These are the general factors the court will consider before deciding how custody will be arranged. More specifically, the court will look at the income of either parent and the role they have taken in caring for the child thus far. For example, if one parent remained home from work and acted as the child’s caretaker while the parents were married.
If the child is considered mature enough to make an intelligent choice, their preference might also be taken into consideration. Usually, this is only utilized on if the child is older, and in some cases the child may choose not to voice his or her opinion.
Joint Custody vs. Primary Custody
In general, California courts favor joint custody arrangements. In cases where both parents are deemed fit and able, the courts generally believe that a relationship with both parents is more beneficial for the child. However, in special circumstances, the court may consider awarding one parent primary custody over the other and grant the other parent visitation rights. Usually, this only happens in cases of abuse, domestic violence, or if the court finds the noncustodial parent otherwise unfit.
Custody is also awarded as legal custody and physical custody. Both parents might retain legal custody, where they can both make major decisions about the child’s life, while one retains primary physical custody because the child lives with him or her.
Do you have questions about your child custody case? Contact Chung & Ignacio, LLP to discuss your situation with our Rancho Cucamonga family law attorneys.