Best Interests of the Child

In July, 75-year-old Paul Anka won sole custody of his 11-year-old son. His ex-wife, former Miss Sweden Anna Aberg, is legally barred from having any contact with the boy. Anka (the famous singer and songwriter) had testified that his son “has an intense dislike of his mother.” Aberg unsuccessfully argued in Ventura County Superior Court that Anka had turned her son against his mother and that the mother-son should be reunited.


Best Interests of the Child

California courts base custody arrangements on what’s in the best interests of the child. State law specifies various factors that must be considered, including:

  • The health, safety and welfare of the child;
  • Any history of abuse by a parent or whoever is seeking custody, whether the abuse was against the child or any other child, the other parent or someone else);
  • The nature and amount of contact with both parents; and
  • Whether either parent abuses alcohol or controlled substances.

There are numerous factors that could affect a child’s health and safety. For example, if a child was conceived out of rape, the father will not be granted custody or visitation rights if he was convicted of sexual assault. (That is not considered a safe situation for the child.) Courts are also not permitted to grant custody or unsupervised visitation to parents who have been convicted of first degree murder of the other parent, unless the court finds that there is no danger to the child. This finding must be explained in writing.


The child’s wishes are also a factor (as they possibly were in the Anka case). In fact, California law requires courts to consider the preferences of children considered mature enough to make an intelligent custody choice. The law does not specify a particular age, however.


Custody Options

Custody refers both to legal custody (meaning the legal authority to make major decisions affecting a child’s health, education and welfare) and physical custody (meaning the child’s physical presence with a parent). A court may order joint legal and physical custody, or divide both according to the best interests of the child.


There is no legal presumption in favor of a joint custody, but California law does favor this arrangement if both parents agree to it.


Contact Us Today

You need an experienced family law attorney if you are in the middle of a child custody dispute. Contact the Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, office of Charles D. Stark today for a free consultation.



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