How California determines child custody

On Behalf of | Nov 9, 2023 | Child Custody

When parents in California decide to separate or divorce, one of the most challenging aspects they face is determining child custody arrangements. Both parents deserve time with the children involved, and the state has the responsibility to decide on a custody arrangement that benefits everyone.

The state follows a structured process to help parents navigate the complex rules surrounding child custody.

Consider the child’s best interest

The court evaluates various factors to determine what arrangement will serve the child’s well-being most effectively. Some of these factors include the child’s age, health and emotional ties with each parent and whether each parent can provide a stable environment.

Choose a type of custody

California recognizes two primary types of custody. Understanding the differences between physical and legal custody is important for arguing your case.

  • Physical custody: Physical custody determines where the child lives. In some cases, one parent may have sole physical custody, while in others, parents may share joint physical custody. Nearly 80% of parents who receive sole physical custody are mothers.
  • Legal custody: Legal custody involves decision-making authority regarding the child’s education, healthcare and general welfare. Just like physical custody, legal custody can be sole or joint.

In most custody arrangements, parents share both physical and legal custody to some extent, although one may have more say then the other in certain decisions.

Make a decision

When parents cannot agree on a custody schedule, the court evaluates each parent’s suitability for custody. The court may also consider the child’s preferences, particularly if they are over the age of 14 and can clearly express their wishes. Other factors that may affect custody decisions include the availability of a support system and the mental state and health of each parent.

Determine visitation rights

In cases where one parent receives sole physical custody, the other parent is typically entitled to visitation rights. The court determines a visitation schedule that allows both parents to maintain a meaningful relationship with the child.

Modify custody orders

Child custody arrangements in California are not set in stone. If circumstances change, parents can request a modification of the custody order. The court reevaluates the situation and makes adjustments if it deems them necessary for the child’s well-being.

Deciding on a custody arrangement may be challenging for parents. The goal is to provide a stable and nurturing environment for the child. By understanding the legal framework and factors considered by the court, parents can work towards a custody arrangement that benefits their child’s well-being.

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