Do California courts favor the mother or father for custody?

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The question we pose in this week’s blog post title is one that many parents have when facing divorce or a possible child custody dispute — and with good reason. For a lot of parents in California, being able to maintain a good relationship with one’s children after a divorce or separation is important. An unfamiliarity with the law though can lead to doubts about parental rights and concerns about how the courts will determine custody.

So do courts in California favor the mother or father in child custody disputes? To answer this question, let’s take a look at our state’s family laws and let you be the judge about whether there is cause for concern or not.

Child custody, as you may or may not know, is governed by Sections 3040 – 3049 of the California Family Code. In our state, judges are required to follow a preferred order of custody options, always keeping in mind what is in the best interest of the child before making a decision. The first of these preferred options is to award joint custody to both parents.

If primary custody with one parent is preferred over joint custody, the judge should award custody to the parent who the judge believes will be more likely to “allow the child frequent and continuing contact with the noncustodial parent.” As far as the law is concerned, either parent may be well suited for this role not just the mother over the father.

But if the law clearly indicates that no parent is to get preferential treatment when it comes to custody decisions, why does the question persist? It continues likely because of cases in other states, perhaps even in the same jurisdiction, where the issue of fathers’ rights has come up in custody cases.

People often believe that if it can happen in another state, it can happen here as well. But while this might be true, it’s important to point out that these other cases may be governed by different legislation, meaning the same outcome might not occur here because of our state’s laws.

Source: The California Family Code, “Section 3040-3049,” Accessed Oct. 17, 2014

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