Child Custody: How Do Courts Decide?

Raising children is often the happiest aspect of marriage. But when divorce becomes necessary, decisions about child custody can be the most difficult and heart-wrenching ones to make.

If you are going through a divorce or other change that requires child custody decisions to be made, chances are good that you have some fundamental disagreements with your child's other parent. But do these disagreements and issues outweigh the benefits your child would likely receive from maintaining a relationship with both parents?

When making any custody determinations, California courts will primarily focus on what is in the best interests of the child (or children). In most cases, that means starting with the presumption that both parents will continue to play a strong role in their child's life.

The Presumption Of Shared Child Custody

California law makes clear that joint custody is presumed to be in the best interests of any child who is still a minor, unless there is evidence to the contrary. Courts will typically begin the process with the goal of a 50-50 split between both parents. From there, the percentage of each parent's time with the children can be adjusted if there are compelling reasons to do so.

Generally speaking, your feelings and opinions about your former spouse are irrelevant to a judge unless they directly relate to the best interests of your children. That being said, there are many factors that could influence how custody is awarded. These include evidence that:

  • One parent abuses drugs or alcohol
  • One parent has been or continues to be abusive
  • One parent's work obligations are excessive and would too often leave the children in the care of someone else (a babysitter, for example)
  • One parent has been or continues to be neglectful
  • One parent is unable to properly care for the child (especially in cases of children with special needs)

Fathers' Rights In California

It has long been said that courts "always" award custody to mothers and that the most fathers can hope for is regular visitation. Thankfully, this is not true. Here in California, courts do not focus on mothers' rights or fathers' rights. Instead, they focus on parental rights and the best interests of children.

That being said, dads sometimes find it difficult to quantify their contribution to child rearing in a way that looks good on paper. For this and many other reasons, seeking help from an experienced lawyer is crucial.

Contact The Mohajer Law Firm, APC Today For A Free Consultation

From our office in Arcadia, we help clients throughout the greater Los Angeles area with child custody and other family law issues. For a free discussion of your case with an attorney who really listens, please call 626-999-3785 or fill out our online contact form.