In California, family court judges must base their custody decisions on what is best for the children. On the outset, both parents have equal rights to custody of their child. Mothers are no longer favored simply for being women. Instead, California law determines the child’s best interests based on two specific policies which then break down further into mitigating factors.
Safety, Health, and Welfare of the Child
- Safety and Health – First and foremost, the court looks at safety and health factors when determining custody. For example, judges are prohibited from granting custody or unsupervised visits with a parent who raped or killed the other parent or has been convicted of sexual or physical child abuse. The only exception to this rule is if the judge decides that the parent’s history doesn’t pose a threat to the child based on further evidence. If this is the case, the judge must explain the situation in writing. Even if a spouse hasn’t been convicted of abuse, if it can be corroborated by a reliable witness that they did indeed cause harm to their spouse or child, the court may limit custody. A reliable witness can also speak out against a parent with habitual illegal drug use.
- Stability and Continuity – Judges favor a stable living environment for the child, so showing that you maintain loving patterns of care and exemplary emotional bonds with your child is very important. The courts will also keep siblings together in most cases to establish stability.
Benefits from Continuing Frequent Contact with Both Parents
- Ability to Co-Parent – Custody is often awarded to the parent who encourages their child to have a positive relationship and frequent contact with the other parent. Any negativity directed to the child about the other parent is looked upon poorly by a judge, especially if they have made an unfounded sexual abuse allegation against them to try to obtain sole custody. Instead, the court may restrict the visitation rights of the accusing parent.
- Your Child’s Parental Preference – If a child is mature enough, their opinion will hold weight in a custody case. California law doesn’t specify a specific age, but the older a child is, the more likely the judge will take their opinion into consideration.
California courts base custody awards on the standard best interests of the children involved in the case. Split between two policies, any factor deemed relevant to the situation can be taken into account. If you and your ex-spouse are fighting for custody, contact the Law Offices of Kayleene H. Writer, PLC for a free consultation. We’ll help you act with the courts to come up with a custody situation that benefits you and your children.