custody california

How Is Custody Determined in California

Deciding child custody is one of the most critical issues that must be resolved before a marriage can be legally dissolved. In cases where the parents cannot agree on a parenting plan, the courts in California will be involved in determining custody based on a number of factors. In the below post, we will review these factors and explain how they can impact your custody arrangement. 

What Does Child Custody Entail?

Child custody refers to the parents’ responsibilities and rights in caring for their children. There are two types of custody in California: legal and physical:

  • Legal custody allows a parent to make critical decisions about the child’s upbringing, including childcare, education, mental health treatment, health care, travel plans, religious activities, and other extracurricular activities. 
  • Physical custody determines who the children will live with most of the time. 

In addition, legal and physical custody may be joint, allowing the child to live with both parents, and both parents can share the decision-making rights and responsibilities for the child’s welfare. However, depending on the circumstances, a judge can also grant sole legal and physical custody to one parent or joint legal custody and sole physical custody.

The Factors That Can Impact Custody

When creating a child custody agreement, it is usually best for parents to work together to devise a plan they both agree on. If they agree, a judge will typically adopt the plan as a court order. However, if the parents cannot agree, they may need to proceed with a contested custody case. This involves one parent filing a complaint or petition for custody and legally serving the other parent with the complaint. The other parent must then respond within a certain amount of time. 

In a custody dispute, a judge may order a child custody evaluation to collect relevant information about the family’s situation, define each parent’s role in the child’s life, and examine the issues causing the conflict. The judge then uses the gathered data to make a custody determination, which becomes a legally binding court order, regardless of whether the parents agree with it or not.

Looking into the Best Interest of the Child

When parents are unable to agree on a custody arrangement, a judge will consider several factors to determine what is in the best interest of the child, including the following:

  • The child’s age and health
  • The child’s ties to their home, community, and school
  • The emotional ties between the child and their parents
  • Whether there is a history of violence within the family
  • Each parent’s ability to take care of their child
  • Whether there is any substance abuse by either parent
  • The stability of the child’s current living situation
  • Will changing the child’s living pattern negatively impact them

Protect Your Child’s Future Contact Herrera Clifton Hess Today

If you are trying to negotiate a fair parenting agreement, but your child’s other parent refuses to do so, and you want to explore your legal options, contact Herrera Clifton Hess today and learn how our experienced California family law attorneys can help you fight for your rights and your child’s future.