California values a child’s right to spend time – and have good relationships with – each parent. But are there California infant custody laws that apply to babies and toddlers?
Here’s what you need to know.
California Infant Custody Laws
California’s child custody laws don’t differentiate by age (except when a child is old enough to express a preference on which parent he or she would rather live with). However, all of our state’s laws are based on one thing: the best interest of the child.
What is the “Best Interest of the Child”?
When courts are determining child custody in California, judges base their decisions on what’s best for the child. Judges can look at several factors, including:
- The child’s age
- The child’s health
- The emotional ties that each parent shares with the child
- Each parent’s ability to care for the child emotionally, physically or financially
- Whether there’s a history of family violence or substance abuse
- The child’s ties to home, school and community
- Other factors that are relevant to the case
How California Custody Laws Apply to Infants
The courts recognize that kids’ health, safety and welfare are the most important things in a child custody agreement. That means different factors might come into play when you’re divorcing with a baby. For example, the court might consider:
- Whether your child is breastfed or bottle-fed
- What kind of childcare is necessary so a parent can work or attend school
- Whether both parents are capable of providing for an infant’s needs at home
- What kind of attachments your child has developed with each parent
For example, let’s say there’s a mother who’s breastfeeding her baby. The baby’s other parent hasn’t been around; in fact, the other parent has only seen the child a few times over the past several months. In a case like that, the court may award the mother more time with the child and limit the child’s visitation with the father. (Remember, though, there’s no way to predict how a judge will rule. Judges take several factors into account, so no attorney can guarantee any type of custody arrangement.)
Legal Infant Custody vs. Physical Infant Custody
There are two main types of custody in California: legal and physical.
Legal custody refers to a parent’s authority to participate in major decisions about a child’s health, welfare and education. Many parents share legal custody.
Physical custody refers to a child’s physical presence with a parent. Many parents also share physical custody, and the child primarily lives with one parent while visiting the other.
Related: Child custody in California
In the Absence of California Infant Custody Laws…
You can avoid asking the court to make a determination on child custody whether you have an infant or an older child. The best way to do that is to reach an agreement with your child’s other parent – whether or not you were ever married.
Reaching agreements on child custody can be incredibly difficult. As parents, you both want what’s best for your child – but you may not see eye-to-eye on the details. Sometimes, attorneys recommend working with a mediator to reach agreements about custody (and other issues, too).
A mediator is an impartial third party who can dig deep into a conflict and find reasonable solutions. If you choose to work with a mediator, he or she will go back and forth between you and your child’s other parent until you’ve reached an agreement you can both live with. Then, you’ll take that agreement to the judge in your case. As long as the agreement is in the child’s best interests, there’s a good chance that the judge will sign off on it. When the judge agrees, it’ll become part of your divorce settlement (or, if you weren’t married, your official child custody order).
Do You Need to Talk to a Lawyer About Custody?
If you have an infant and you’re thinking about divorce, or if you need help sorting out child custody with someone you were never married to, we may be able to help.
Call us at 209-395-1605 for a consultation now. We’ll answer your questions and start building a strategy that gets you the best possible outcome.