About California Child Custody Laws

Written by J. Hirby and Fact Checked by The Law Dictionary Staff  

Child custody is a highly contentious component of many divorces. The child custody laws in California are designed to protect the child. Since child custody is such an emotionally fraught issue, it can be very helpful to understand the basics of California's laws on the subject.

Maintaining the Status Quo

In many child custody cases in California, the court seeks to maintain the child's status quo. Essentially, the judge looks at the child's schedule and tries to determine if it's working and if it's in the child's best interest. For instance, if the child is living with one parent most of the time but having regular visitations with the other and appears to be well adjusted, the court may see no reason to interfere. However, the courts know that every situation is unique, and they are fully prepared to hear testimony from either parent about why the arrangements should be different.

The Child's Choice

California Family Code Section 3042 puts heavy emphasis on the child's wishes. Every child has a voice, and one who has attained sufficient age and capacity to express a preference for a custody arrangement may make their preference known to the court. This doesn't mean that the court will comply, but it does ensure that the child's preference will be taken under advisement. An increasing number of judges are taking the children's input seriously.

Domestic Violence

A parent with a history of abuse or domestic violence charges is unlikely to be able to obtain physical custody. California custody laws are geared toward the best interests of the child, and allowing the child to live with an abusive parent runs counter to that goal.

Co-Parenting

A parent who is combative, uncommunicative and resistant about co-parenting is also unlikely to find favor with the court. Custody laws in California heavily favor the idea of co-parenting, and even states that a parent who is unwilling to communicate and co-parent may not be a fit caregiver.

Interference

California custody laws also frown upon parents who attempt to undermine the child's relationship with the other parent. Some parents try to alienate their children from their former partner or even make false reports of child abuse. The court keeps track of such matters and misbehavior. A parent who has interfered in the relationship between the other parent and the child may have an uphill battle when it comes to a custody fight.

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