How California Courts Decide Custody


California courts decide custody based on the best interest of the child. The court considers many factors in determining a child’s best interest. Such factors analyze the child’s current living environment, each parent’s ability to care for his/her child, and the child’s desires. Courts encourage parents to settle custody disputes outside of court through mediation. Courts often seek to award both parents legal custody of their child. Physical custody and visitation rights are awarded based on the child’s and parent’s schedules and current living arrangements. Factors the courts consider when deciding custody disputes include the following:


  • Family Lifestyle – The court will review the lifestyle of both parents and decide whether they are conductive to raising children. For example, if a parent exposes his/her child to second-hand smoke or works long hours, the court may decide that it is in the child’s best interest to reside with the non-smoking parent who has less work hours. The court must ensure that the child will be placed in a stable, healthy and productive environment.
  • Emotional Bonds – The court will examine the relationships between the child and parents. If a child is attached to one parent over the other, the court will take this into consideration when deciding child custody. Do not be discouraged with this examination. The court wants to make sure the child is comfortable in his/her living environment.
  • Capacity to Care for a Child – Each parent’s financial resources and stability will be taken into consideration when the court decides custody. A parent with a stable home and job will have a higher capacity to care for his/her child than a parent who is between jobs or living in a temporary housing situation. The court will seek to place the child with the stable parent.
  • Impacts of a Relocation – If one parent moves or is planning to move away, the relocation can have a huge impact on the child. Courts highly disfavor any relocation outside the child’s county of residence and often prohibit it under certain circumstances.
  • Criminal Records and History of Any Abuse – The court will examine any past history of abuse or criminal activity. Any documented child abuse incidents will be heavily considered when deciding custody.
  • Child’s Preference –  If the child is a teenager, the court will take into consideration which parent he/she seeks to reside with.
  • Parent’s Health – The mental and physical health of each parent will be examined to make sure they are fit to raise a child.

Contact San Diego Esquire for more information on how to obtain or modify your child custody order. We can help you prepare documents to file a new petition or settle your custody dispute through mediation. Call us today to discuss your custody matter in confidence.


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About the Author:

Kymeshia Morris Esq., founder of San Diego Esquire has practiced law in California since 2012. During her career as a lawyer, she has co-authored legal publications and self-help articles. Kymeshia is dedicated to providing affordable legal services to California businesses and individuals.

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