California custody laws are very clear when it comes to serving the best interests of the child, but in a child custody case, which parent is supposed to have more time with the child – and how are they supposed to figure it all out?
The good news is that your Stockton divorce attorney can help you work out an agreement with your spouse, provided that your spouse is cooperative and you both have your kids’ best interests at heart. However, there are custody laws in California that require you – and the courts – to be as fair as possible when you’re working out a custody agreement.
California Custody Laws
You and your spouse are free to work out an agreement about what’s best for your family when you’re getting a divorce. In fact, the courts encourage parents to come up with their own agreements; that way, families can come up with solutions that work for everyone.
However, if you and your spouse can’t reach a fair and equitable agreement that’s in your child’s best interests, the judge will have to decide. Both parents have equal rights to custody under the law, so a judge won’t give preference to one parent over the other simply based on his or her gender. However, the judge will consider the health, safety and welfare of the child that stems from spending time with each parent. Judges in California are also required to remember that kids benefit from frequent, continuing contact with both of their parents in most circumstances.
Legal and Physical Custody
There are two types of custody: Legal and physical.
Legal custody refers to a parent’s authority to participate in big decisions about the child’s health, education and welfare. Most parents share legal custody.
Physical custody refers to the child’s physical presence with a parent. Many parents share legal custody (it’s called joint physical custody), but it doesn’t have to be split 50-50.
Limiting Custody Under California Law
Judges can sometimes limit custody and visitation, but only under specific circumstances (such as those that could put the child in danger). If one parent has engaged in child or partner abuse, for example, or if he or she abuses drugs or alcohol, the judge may limit custody for the offending parent.
Judges can block custody or unsupervised visitation in some cases, too. Judges are prohibited from granting custody to a parent who’s been convicted of murdering the child’s other parent or some types of physical or sexual child abuse.
Other Factors Judges Consider Under California Custody Laws
The court is required to consider which parent is more likely to encourage a positive relationship between the child and the other parent when the judge is making a custody decision. (If one parent has already interfered with the relationship, the judge will not take that lightly.)
Further, the judge has to consider stability and continuity for the child – and that includes maintaining relationships and patterns of care that have already been established. Usually, judges keep siblings together unless there are extraordinary circumstances involved.
Do You Need to Talk to a Lawyer About California Custody Laws?
If you’re divorcing, we can help. Call us right away at 209-910-9865 or get in touch with a Stockton divorce attorney online to schedule a consultation today.