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Determining Child Custody Under California Law

Posted on in Child Custody and Visitation

CA family lawyerWhen parents decide to get divorced, or when they are unmarried, determining who will have responsibility for their children can often be a contentious matter to resolve. Disputes over child custody can be highly emotional, and the decisions made in these cases will affect parents’ and children’s lives and relationships for years to come. When working to resolve these issues, it is important to understand how California law affects the decisions made.

California Child Custody Laws

California law recognizes two types of child custody: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody involves decision-making authority for children, including medical, dental, or mental health treatments; educational choices, such as where they will go to school; extracurricular activities they will participate in; whether they will attend church or be involved in religious activities; and other decisions related to their general welfare. Physical custody involves where children will live and spend their time.

Parents may share joint physical or legal custody, or one parent may have sole legal custody or primary physical custody. If parents cannot agree about how to divide custody, the decision will be left up to a judge, who will determine custody based on what is in the best interests of the child. California law states that a judge should consider the following factors:

  • How well each parent can protect a child’s health, welfare, and safety.
  • The amount of contact each parent has had with their child in the past, and the nature of this contact.
  • The wishes of the child, if the child is “of sufficient age and capacity to reason so as to form an intelligent preference.” A child may be allowed to testify in court regarding their wishes, and a judge will decide whether doing so is in their best interests.
  • Whether either parent has a history of abuse against a child, a spouse or cohabitant, or their child’s other parent.
  • Whether either parent has a history of alcohol or drug abuse.
  • Any other factors that a judge considers to be relevant.

In some cases, a judge will appoint a custody evaluator, who will investigate the family’s circumstances and make recommendations about child custody. Parents may also use mediation to work together to reach an agreement about legal and physical custody rather than leaving the decision up to a judge.

Contact a Los Gatos Divorce Lawyer

At the Law Offices of Benita Ventresca, we can work with you to help you reach a decision about child custody that protects your parental rights and your children’s best interests. Whether you need a mediator who can help you reach an agreement or an advocate to represent you in family court, our Los Gatos, CA divorce attorney can provide the legal help you need. Contact us today at 408-395-8822 to schedule your free initial consultation.

 

Sources:

https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?sectionNum=3011.&lawCode=FAM

http://www.courts.ca.gov/17975.htm

https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?lawCode=FAM&sectionNum=3042.

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