Divorce can be a stressful and emotional process for any married couple, but divorcing couples with children face an even more difficult road. The children of a divorcing couple may not understand what is happening or their role in events, and the emotions of the parents can unfortunately influence them in various possible ways.
It is essential for anyone considering divorce in California to understand the state’s position on child custody. A divorcing parent’s expectations concerning child custody may be vastly different from the reality of the situation.
The Best Interests of the Child Laws in California
Once the California court system becomes involved with a child custody case, the state has an obligation to rule in favor of the best interests of the child. This ruling involves many variables and factors including the financial situation of each parent, housing arrangements, school schedules, extracurricular activities, and the residences of extended family.
Ultimately, the court will attempt to reach a custody arrangement that minimizes interruption of the children’s daily lives and works toward providing them with the most positive and supportive growing environment possible.
The health, welfare, and safety of children in a divorce case are the court’s top priority for any divorce case involving parents. The court will also determine whether the children involved in a divorce case will benefit from continued contact with both parents.
For example, if the court knows that one parent has a history of addiction and domestic violence, the court will likely rule in favor of denying custody to that parent or only allowing visitation under strict supervision on a limited schedule.
Factors Used to Determine Custody in 2019
A judge reviewing a divorce case will take many factors into consideration when making a child custody determination:
- Custody agreements between the parents may come into play if the judge determines that the parents are both working toward the best interests of their children and have developed a mutually agreeable custody arrangement that works for their unique situation. However, the judge will still need to ensure the arrangement works toward the best interests of the couple’s children, regardless of how amicably they develop such an arrangement.
- The criminal histories of the parents will also come into play. If one parent has engaged in domestic violence of any kind, physical or sexual abuse of a child, or committed a felony, these factors will heavily influence the custody determination.
- Parenting skills are also an important factor. The judge will likely require an investigation from a court official to determine each parent’s fitness to care for children, the living situations for the children with each parent, and each parent’s approach to parenting.
- California judges will take a child’s preference into consideration if the child is mature enough to provide a reasonably coherent explanation of his or her preferences. There is no specific age requirement; judges use their discretion to determine the maturity of a child and the strength of his or her testimony in a given case.
- Stability is another major determining factor. For example, if one parent decides to take a job in a different state after the divorce, moving to a completely new town and starting a new school would be a huge upheaval in a child’s life. A judge would likely deem remaining with the parent staying in the family home as the most stable course of action for the children.
Contact a Divorce Attorney
Every divorce case is unique. Every divorcing couple will have individual issues to address and the children involved in those cases remain the top priority in the eyes of the California court system.
It remains up to California judges to make sound, responsible determinations in child custody cases to ensure the best interests of the children involved in those cases.
If you’re seeking answers to questions regarding a possible or existing divorce, contact the office of Schoenberg Family Law Group, P.C. today to schedule a free consultation.