Determining Child Custody in California
Child custody cases are incredibly difficult to navigate and can be the most emotionally taxing part of a divorce. Typically, both parents want what’s best for their child but want to make sure they also protect their right to see and make decisions for their child. In a child custody case, the presiding judge will listen to both parents present their arguments for why they should possess custody. Here’s what you should know about the two types of custody in California and how the process works.
Legal custody gives the parent(s) the right and ability to make decisions for the child as it relates to his/her health, well-being, education, activities, etc. Legal custody can be determined as sole custody for one parent or joint custody for both parents. In cases of joint custody, the parents do not have to agree on these decisions, but both parents are able to make their own decisions for the child.
Physical custody determines where the child lives. Physical custody can be joint (the child lives with both parents to some degree), primary (the child lives with one parent and is able to visit the other), or sole (the child rarely visits the other parent at all).
Deciding How Custody is Awarded
California law gives several factors for a judge to consider in order to make the most effective determination for the child.
The Child’s Best Interest
California law requires that judges make child custody decisions based upon what is in the best interest of the child. While many other factors can help a judge make this level of determination, the law notes two specific factors that are to be considered.
The Health and Safety of the Child
A decision that ensures that the child has proper safety and health is the number one factor that a judge must consider when making determination of custody. For example, if a parent has a history of substance abuse or some sort of past criminal charge, those pieces of information will play a key role in a judge’s decision. The judge may see those notes and see that parent as a danger to the child’s wellbeing.
The Benefits of Continued Parental Contact
The judge must also consider if the child will benefit from continued contact with both parents over his/her lifetime. Similarly, a parent with some degree of past issues may pose a threat to the child’s development, and the judge may determine that the child would benefit more from limited contact with that parent.
Additional Factors to Consider
While the judge must ultimately make the determination of child custody based upon what is in the child’s best interest, both parents have the opportunity to present individual arguments based upon additional secondary factors.
The Level of Demonstrated Parental Responsibility
A judge will hear arguments from both parents related to their individual levels of parental responsibility. Each parent will present the level of physical, mental, and emotional care he/she provides for the child and how he/she is the better fit for the child’s overall development.
The Ability to Financially Support the Child
Each parent will have the opportunity to divulge financial information such as income and bank account information for the judge to consider. Demonstrating financial information is also used in determining both the amount of and the length of child support payments.
The Child’s Preference
If a child is both of appropriate age and demonstrated maturity level, the judge may ask the child if he/she would prefer to stay with the father or the mother. The child’s answer may play a role in the judge’s determination of what is in the child’s best interest.
Irvine Child Custody Attorneys
Child custody cases can be messy and incredibly difficult to navigate on your own. By hiring legal counsel, you give yourself a greater advantage in preparation for your court hearings and building your arguments. By hiring a team of experts to assist you in your case, you will help your case go much more smoothly.
The team at Sullivan Law & Associates is ready to help you prepare for your child custody case. Contact us today at (949) 590-8100 to talk through your options and consult with our team of professionals.