When a couple decides to get a divorce, one of the most difficult things for them to agree on may be child custody arrangements. Both parents may agree that they should both be involved in the child’s upbringing, but are unable to agree on how much time each parent should be able to spend with the child. In some cases, parents are able to work together and come up with a reasonable agreement that works for all parties involved without ever going to court. However, in other situations, parents find that they are unable to come to an understanding and end up needing a judge to help come up with a solution.
When a judge is asked to determine child custody in California, the primary focus is always the best interest of the child. In most cases, the best interest of the child is often served by having both parents involved in their lives on a regular basis.
So what factors do judges consider when determining custody arrangements? Primarily, the judge will consider factors relating to the child themselves, including their age and health, the bonds shared between the child and each of their parents, any domestic violence or substance abuse in the home, and the ability of each parent to care for physical, emotional, and financial needs of the child. The court will also consider the child’s connection to their school, home, and community. If the child is mature enough (generally, at least 12 years old), the court may also consider the child’s preferences when determining custody.
Once all of these factors have been considered, the judge will make his or her final decision regarding child custody. Once the order has been finalized, both parents are legally obligated to follow the terms of the order. If one or both parents experiences a significant change in circumstances that prevents them from following the order, it Is their responsibility to file for a modification. A family law attorney in your area can represent you during the initial custody hearing, as well as during the modification process.