Are you and your spouse filing for divorce? Are their children involved? Many parents come into our office speaking of divorce and typically their main concern is child custody. They are afraid that they may lose custody of their children and that the other parent will find favor in the court. Are you looking to maintain custody of your children after the divorce? If that is the case, the first step is finding out what the child custody laws are in your state.
In California family court they prefer to award joint custody to couples who have minor children. The best situation is for both parents to maintain a meaningful relationship with the children. However, at the end of the day the court will make their decision based on the best interest of the children. So if one parent is not able to provide a safe, loving and stable home for the children, then other parent could be awarded full custody. Keep in mind than the non-custodial parent is typically awarded visitation time.
What do the courts look for?
When deciding on the issue of custody the court has several major factors that they must take into consideration. If you and your spouse are able to come up with a proposed child custody agreement that is mutually desirable, then you could simply submit that to the court for approval. However, if there is a dispute over the custody arrangement, then it will be left up to the courts discretion. Knowing that, it is vital that you know what they will be looking for when making their decision. The major custody factors in California include:
What is in the best interests of the child?
What the child's wishes/preferences are (if they are over the age of 12)
If there is any history of abuse or domestic violence
If there is any history of drug or alcohol abuse/addiction
Which parent will be the one to encourage contact and visits with the other parent
The physical and mental health of each parent
How close the parents live to one another
What each parent's role was prior to the divorce
Who the primary child caregiver prior to the divorce
Third Party Custody
In some cases where the court finds that the children are not safe under the care of the parents, they will award child custody to a grandparent or third party. There are certain conditions with these cases and the court must find that third party custody is in the best interests of the children.