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How Child Custody is Determined in California Courts

by | Jan 15, 2024 | Child Custody

Every state has specific child custody laws. The laws in California outline agreements that parents must make regarding their children when they separate. The arrangements cover how they will make major decisions as well as how they will share time with the child or children. 

If you are seeking child custody and child support in California, talk with an experienced Divorce lawyer to get your questions answered today.

Understanding the Court’s Child Custody Considerations in California

What do courts consider when determining child custody in California? Firstly, the court considers what is in your child’s best interests. The court takes into account your child’s age, health, and emotional ties. The court considers ties to the school and community. 

Additionally, courts evaluate if there has been any history of neglect or family abuse. 

Child Custody Basics in California

Child custody refers to the rights and responsibilities of the parents in taking care of the children. The basic concept refers to two types of custody: legal and physical. 

Legal custody refers to who makes important decisions for your children. This can include health care, education, religious activities, and welfare. Physical custody refers to who your children live with the majority of the time. 

In California, legal and physical custody can be shared, also called ‘joint-custody’ or it may be the sole custody, when only one parent has this right and responsibility. 

Important custody decisions may include some things that you have not considered before. These can include school, childcare, and religious activities. It may include mental health, therapy, psychiatric or psychological counseling. Important decisions can also be medical care such as doctor, dentist, or orthodontist. 

Further, important decisions can be about extracurricular activities such as sports, summer camp, vacations, and travel. 

What is a Parenting Plan in California?

Parenting plans include specific details regarding child custody and parenting time. Parenting time is often called ‘visitation.’ 

The plan describes how to care for your children, where they will live, and when they will see each parent. 

It is important to note that until you have a court order, both parents have the same rights. No parent is given more rights to have the children under their care. The parenting plan is an agreement that defines what is in the best interest of your children. 

Developing a Parenting Plan in California

A key factor in California Child Custody procedure is what is known as a parenting plan. This is a plan that describes the agreed-upon details of custody. The plan must be in your child’s best interests or the court will not accept the plan. 

Parents will need to determine and agree on a schedule for custody and visitation. The agreement should aim to ease their child’s transition during the divorce and be best for the child after the divorce. 

When You Cannot Agree on a Parenting Plan in California

If parents are unable to agree on a parenting plan, a court intervention is required. A family law case is opened, and a custody order must be requested and maintained. 

If you or the other parent cannot agree, you will have to ask a judge to decide what is best for the child. 

In California, the Court considers several factors including the age and health of the child; emotional ties between the parents and the child, and the child’s ties to their home, school, and community. 

Further, the judge evaluates the ability of each parent to care for the child. If there has been any history of family violence or any regular or ongoing substance abuse, this will be considered. Special laws apply if you or your child have been abused by the other parent.

California Laws are Subject to Change

As challenging as it may seem to make custody decisions, there is another issue at play. Laws in any state are subject to change at any time. This can be due to new rulings from a higher court, or enactment of new statutes. 

If you are researching child custody in California, you may want to contact a California Divorce lawyer to verify that the information you find is up to date.

Talk to an Experienced California Divorce Attorney

If you and your ex-spouse are considering divorce, need help with a parenting plan, or do not agree on child custody, the Law Offices of David M. Lederman is here to help. We are here to guide you through the difficult divorce process.

If you have any questions about child custody in Antioch, Moraga, and across Contra Costa, Alameda, and Solano Counties, please get in touch. We are happy to talk with you. Call 925-522-8889 or send an email to set up a consultation. We are happy to discuss child custody, support, or other divorce-related issues in California.

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