If you and your spouse have children together, child custody is one of the most important issues to be resolved after a divorce or separation. In general, California courts take the view that both parents should play an active role in raising a child. To this end, they will aim to broker a shared custody agreement.
In such an agreement, one parent will be made the primary caregiver. The child will live with this parent, and the latter will manage their day-to-day activities. A visitation schedule will be created so that the child gets to spend time with and be cared for by both parents. In this case, both parents will need to consent to any major decisions (e.g., schooling, health care, etc.) affecting the life of the child.
The Child’s Best Interests
Although the law favors shared custody arrangements, judges will always put the best interest of the child first. Here are some of the main factors that determine their decision:
1. The Parent’s Mental and Physical Health
If you or your spouse are physically disabled or suffer from mental health problems, it could affect the custody ruling. You may not be able to look after the health, welfare, and safety of the child if you are physically incapacitated. Also, certain mental health conditions disqualify parents from having unsupervised contact with their children.
2. The Parent’s Lifestyle and Social Factors
Judges will thoroughly examine the lifestyle of each parent. If any evidence of illegal drug use or alcoholism is brought to them, it will affect their ruling. The ability to provide a clean, comfortable, and stable place for the child to live or even stay the night is also a factor in determining the child’s best interest.
3. Whether the Child Will Need to Move
If a sudden move or significant deviation from the child’s current living situation will negatively impact them, the judge may give sole custody to one parent. This often happens when the child is well-established in their community, and moving them would severely impact them.
4. The Child’s Wishes
The child may state their preference for custody if the court deems the child to be mature and old enough. Typically the age for this is around twelve. However, the court does not have to uphold the decision if they believe it will be harmful to the child.
Custody cases are never easy to go through. Call Moshtael Family Law Orange County at (714) 909-2561 for the support you need.