Perhaps as many as half of all California adults will become a party to a child custody proceeding at some point in their lives. The stakes couldn’t be higher, because the well-being of both the child and the parents are likely to be greatly affected by the outcome. Although, once upon a time, California family judges gave preference to the mother when making custody decisions, this is no longer the case – at least in theory.
The “Best Interests of the Child” Standard
The “best interests of the child” standard means the health, safety, well-being, and happiness of the child. It is the California family law principle to which all other considerations are subordinate (including parental rights). Any factor that might influence a California child custody case is judged primarily in terms of how it impacts the best interests of the child.
Factors that might influence a judge’s determination of which custody arrangement would most effectively protect the best interests of the child include:
The age of the child: Physical custody will be granted to the mother of a nursing child. Beyond that, there are a few judges who still give the mother a greater preference the younger the child is.
The child’s preference: The child’s preference is given greater weight as he or she gets older. Nevertheless, it is not necessarily decisive. The term “best interests” doesn’t necessarily mean what the child wants, but what is in the child’s long-term best interests.
Stability: If the family home was awarded to one parent, for example, a judge might grant primary physical custody to that parent, so that the child will not have to change residences after the divorce.
Cooperation between the spouses: If one parent is cooperative and one parent is competitive or antagonistic, the cooperative parent is likely to be favored in a custody decision.
Each parent’s relationship with the child: A parent with little interest in the child prior to custody proceedings, who suddenly develops an intense interest, is likely to be thought to be motivated by competitive animus towards the other parent rather than authentic concern for the child.
Abuse or neglect: A parent found guilty of abuse or neglect of the child or even another child, will be at a great disadvantage in child custody proceedings.
Substance abuse by a parent: A history of substance abuse by either parent will put that parent at a distinct disadvantage in custody proceedings.
Lifestyle: The lifestyle of a parent will be considered to the extent that it might affect the child’s lifestyle. A parent who works that “graveyard shift,” for example, may be disfavored for physical custody because of the way that the parent’s lifestyle might affect the child’s sleep/wake cycle on school nights.
Contact CKB Vienna Today
If you anticipate becoming a party to a child custody disputes, or even involved in custody proceedings that have the potential to become contentious, call CKB Vienna today or contact us online to schedule a meeting where we can discuss your case. We serve clients in Rancho Cucamonga, San Bernardino County, Los Angeles County, Orange County, and Riverside County.