How California Determines Child Custody

When a divorce takes place, and there are children from the marriage, custodial agreements have to be determined. If the parents struggle to agree on how child custody should be managed, the court will make these choices for them. It is widely agreed upon that children benefit from having a relationship with both of their parents. 

If you are sorting out custody for your children, the child custody attorneys at Martin Family Law Group can help. Reach out today to discuss the particulars of your case and the way California determines child custody. We are available to protect your rights and the rights of your child. 

The Difference Between Legal and Physical Custody

In California, child custody is divided into two categories. Legal custody means that a parent is awarded the right to make crucial decisions about the child. Some of the following are listed below: 

  • Health and medical choices
  • Educational decisions
  • Decisions concerning their personal welfare

Physical custody designates which parent the child lives with. 

Joint or Sole Custody 

In some cases, the judge will award one parent sole custody. But, often, both parents are granted parental rights. This is known as joint custody. 

Joint Legal Custody means that both parents are responsible for making important decisions concerning their child together. But, if one parent is granted sole legal custody, that parent has the right to make all decisions independently concerning the child. 

Joint physical and sole physical custody also works with the same principle. If the parents share joint physical custody, the child will split their time between homes. However, if sole physical custody is granted to one parent, then the child will live with that parent while having regular visitation scheduled for the other parent. 

California law leans towards joint custody so that the child benefits from the care of both parents.

Determining What is in the Best Interest of the Child

When determining how custody should be awarded in California, several factors are taken into consideration. The Judicial Council of California cites the following elements: 

  • Age of the child
  • The health of the child
  • Parent-child emotional ties
  • Parental ability to care for their child
  • A child’s ties to the community and school, and their home
  • History of substance abuse among parents
  • History of domestic violence

The Judicial Council protects the rights of parents based on their religion, lifestyle, or sexual orientation. Another protection offered by the council is the parent’s physical disabilities. Possessing a physical disability does not mean that they will be denied parental rights.

Do California Courts Favor the Mother or the Father When Determining Custody? 

California law decides custody based on what is best for the child. Mothers are frequently granted custody in more cases than fathers because they are often the primary caregivers, not because the court favors mothers over fathers. 

When Can a Child Choose Where They Will Live? 

Children often have strong opinions about which parent they want to live with. California Family Code § 3042 (a) establishes that California courts must consider this preference when the child is of sufficient age. This age is usually around age 14. 

The court will listen to their opinion about custody and visitation as they are considered mature. The judge will listen to the child’s opinion, but that does not mean he will necessarily rule in favor of the child’s request. Other factors will be taken into account, and the judge will issue a decision they feel is in the best interest of the child. 

Reach Out to a California Child Custody Lawyer Today

If you are going through a divorce or if custody of your children needs to be renegotiated, working with a California child custody attorney with Martin Family Law Group can help. We will review your case and help you to ensure that your child’s best interest is protected. Contact us today to get started.