One of the biggest and most complicated issues in divorce is child custody, and in California a judge must consider the child’s best interest when reaching a conclusion about how parents will share time with their kids. The Judge’s view of the children’s best interests are often different than what a parent wants. In the custody process both parents will begin with equal rights; a judge is not permitted to give a preference to either parent based upon the parent’s sex. In determining a child’s best interest, California laws specifies two guiding policies:
Within the parameters of these two policies, a judge may consider any relevant factor to parenting, taking into account all circumstances of each individual case. Absent a reason “why not”, the law presumes “joint custody” is in the best interest of the children. Thus, definitions and boundaries become very important.
There are two types of custody: physical custody and legal custody. Legal custody deals with the ability to make important decisions regarding the child’s health, welfare, and education. Physical custody deals with the child physically living with or staying with the parent. Some of the primary factors that courts will evaluate in deciding a custody issue are the following:
If giving custody to either of the child’s parents would somehow be harmful to the child, either emotionally or physically, the court does have the power to appoint guardianship custody to someone else entirely. In this case, someone who wants to be the child’s guardian must take the step to ask for custody based on the fact that the parents cannot care for the child or would be deficient in doing so.
If the court agrees and finds that the arrangement would be in the child’s best interest, the guardian may be awarded physical and legal custody of the child. For example, a child’s grandparent may request to be the child’s guardian, or it may be a family friend or relative, but this is not usual unless detriment is shown.
If you are involved in a custody battle, have any questions, or are in need of legal advice or representation please contact Charles D. Stark, Attorney and Counselor at Law.