How Is Child Custody Determined in California?

According to a 2018 child custody research study by Custody X Change, fathers in California are likely to get about 32.8% of child custody time. In the state of California, either parent can have custody of their children. Likewise, both parents can decide to share custody. However, should they be unable to agree, the family court can help determine custody based on the child's best interests and welfare.

At The Law Offices of Steven E. Springer, we are dedicated to providing outstanding legal services and comprehensive guidance to individuals and families in divorce and child custody-related matters. Our experienced California divorce attorneys are available to discuss your unique situation and explain how child custody is determined. Our team can offer you the detailed legal counsel and reliable advocacy you need to establish or modify a child custody agreement. We proudly serve clients across San Jose, Morgan Hill, Fremont, Pleasanton, and Santa Clara County, California.

Who Determines Custody?

In California, child custody can either be contested or uncontested.

Uncontested Custody

In a collaborative or uncontested custody agreement, both parents are able to work together, draft mutually acceptable custody terms, and establish a feasible custody arrangement amicably and peacefully. All agreed-upon terms must be documented and presented to the court to be officially approved.

Contested Custody

Conversely, if both parents are unable to agree on mutually acceptable custody terms, the California family court may need to intervene. The parents (or their legal representatives) will be allowed to present their cases during a hearing. The judge will establish a custody arrangement based on the best interests and welfare of the child.

What Factors Are Considered?

According to California Family Code Section 3011, in making a determination of the best interests of the child in a custody proceeding, the court shall consider all of the following:

  • The health, safety, and welfare of the child
  • Any history of abuse against the child or the other parent
  • The nature and amount of contact with both parents
  • The habitual or continuous use of illegal use of controlled substances, alcohol, or prescribed medications by either parent
  • Any other factor deemed relevant by the court.

Is Joint Custody an Option?

Parental involvement is an important factor in determining child custody after a divorce. In fact, California courts often encourage both parents to actively participate in their child's life. A great way to achieve this is through joint custody.

Under California Family Code Section 3003, "joint legal custody" can be described as a situation whereby both parents share the right and responsibility to make decisions regarding the health, education, and welfare of a child. This type of custody arrangement is very common in the state of California.

Additionally, joint physical custody makes it possible for both parents to have significant periods of physical custody (California Family Code Section 3004). Thus, the child will spend substantial time living with both parents. Also, both parents will be equally responsible for the physical care of their child.

The Child's Preference

Furthermore, the reasonable preference of the child may be considered in a custody case depending on the age of the child (California Family Code Section 3042 (a)). If the child is of sufficient age (usually 14 years or older) and can give a reasonable opinion, the law may allow the child to state his or her custodial preference, unless the judge believes doing so won't be in the child's best interests. Even so, the judge will act accordingly based on consideration of all factors.

Getting the Experienced
Legal Support You Need

Child custody is a key issue that needs to be resolved in some divorces or legal separations. Different issues, such as establishing parental rights and allocating parenting time with your estranged spouse, can make the whole process overwhelming. Therefore, consulting with an experienced family law attorney is crucial to evaluate your options and determine the best way to protect your family's future.

Our attorneys at The Law Offices of Steven E. Springer have devoted their careers to assisting and guiding clients through the complex legal processes involved in establishing or modifying child custody. As your legal counsel, we can review your unique circumstances and explore your available legal options. Also, our team will work diligently with both parents to establish a feasible parenting plan, including custody, parental rights, child care, parenting time, and parental codes of conduct. We can guide you through every phase of the legal process and help you make informed decisions about your family's future.

Call The Law Offices of Steven E. Springer today to schedule a one-on-one case assessment with experienced child custody attorneys. Our team will offer you the knowledgeable legal guidance, support, and brilliant advocacy you need to navigate important decisions. We proudly serve clients across San Jose, Morgan Hill, Fremont, Pleasanton, and Santa Clara County California.


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