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How Do California Divorce Courts Determine Child Custody?

Posted on : May 3, 2020, By:  Grace Chang

One of the most important family legal matters is child custody, and it’s also one of the most sensitive. Before you begin your journey through the California family court system, you should have a good understanding of how courts make child custody decisions. 

Here’s what you need to know and how to get legal help when involved in a child custody matter. 

What California Courts Look At Before Awarding Child Custody 

In the past, custody of children was typically awarded to mothers on a near-automatic basis. Now that courts realize that far more goes into determining what is in the best interests of the child, they evaluate a wide variety of circumstances that have an impact on the child’s health, safety, education, and overall wellbeing. 

This includes but is not limited to: 

  • Any claim or history of domestic violence or abuse. This is often a dealbreaker when it comes to awarding child custody or visitation. If one parent has a history of abuse or has allegations of domestic violence against them, they may only be awarded supervised visitation or in some cases, no contact at all.  
  • The housing circumstances of each parent and their proximity to the child’s school and extracurricular activities. If one parent lives significantly farther away from school and activities than the other, this will be taken into consideration.   
  • The income of each parent. If one parent makes significantly more than the other parent and has the ability to better provide for the child’s needs, a court may award them primary custody and the other visitation. 
  • The age of each parent. If one parent is much older or younger, this will be taken into consideration when evaluating their ability to provide adequate care to the child. 
  • The physical and mental health of each parent. If one parent has a debilitating physical condition or a mental health condition that impacts their ability to properly care for the child, primary physical custody may be awarded to the healthier parent to ensure the child has more stability. 

When to Contact a California Family Lawyer 

If you are involved in a child custody dispute or are considering ending your marriage or the relationship you have with your child’s other parent, it’s important to understand your legal rights. 

It’s also critical that you have someone on your side who can help illustrate to the court why you should be awarded full or partial custody of your child. Contact our office today for a consultation at (626) 792-5888.