Child Custody FAQs

Below are answers to child custody questions our law office typically receives. Read on to learn more.

How does a court determine child custody?

A court will award custody based on the best interest of the child.  There are a number of factors a court uses when determining custody.  These include the age, sex, and health of the child; the parent’s lifestyle (e.g. does on parent smoke or has one parent been physically abusive); the emotional bond between the child and parents; the educational opportunities available to the child; and the ability for one parent to care for the child.

Will the court take the child’s wishes into consideration?

If the child is over the age of 12, the court may ask the child his/her preference, and will take it into consideration.

What is the difference between joint physical custody and joint legal custody?

Physical custody refers to who the child is living with.  Joint physical custody does not necessarily mean that the child is with each parent half the time- often times shared custody is a 60/40 or 70/30 split.  Joint legal custody means that each parent has the right to make decisions regarding the child’s medical, education, and religion.  Most times, the court will award both parents joint legal custody.

My ex and I never married.  Will that hurt my chances of getting custody?

With unmarried couples, the father has no parental rights to a child until he establishes paternity.  Paternity can be established when both parents sign a Declaration of Paternity.  This form can be signed at the hospital when the child is born or at a local agency.  Once paternity is established, the couple will be treated the same as a married couple when it comes to child custody.

I have custody of the children.  Can we move out of state?

Many custody arrangements put geographical restrictions on how far a parent can move.  If you do wish to move, talk to a lawyer.  Your custody arrangement might not be clear as to whether you can or cannot move out of state.  If you need to move, you may have to convince a judge that a move would be in the best interest of the child.

My ex has not paid child support in several months.  Can I keep him/her from seeing our children?

Child custody and child support are two separate issues.  You cannot keep a parent from seeing their child because he/she has not paid child support.  Similarly, you cannot withhold child support because your ex refuses to let you see the kids.  In either case, you may need to petition a court to enforce the child support or custody order.

I am in the military and I have primary custody of my child.  I am about to be deployed overseas.  Will I lose custody while I am gone?

California does not allow modifications in a child custody order while one parent is deployed for military service.  When you are deployed, your ex or another relative will need to get temporary custody, but when you return your custody status will be the same when you left.

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