Child Custody in California

The California Family Code provides that Custody and Visitation of a child shall be ordered according to the “best interests” of that child.  “Best interests” however, is a difficult to define term. Often, both parents will believe that it means they should be the primary parent, and, so, a judge is left to decide with only this broad guideline.

While legally speaking there is no presumption in favor of joint custody, often, judges tend to gravitate towards joint custody and equal timeshare; the idea being that spending as much time with both parents as possible is usually in the child’s best interest.

This does not always mean that joint custody and equal visitation will be ordered though.  What are the considerations that result in a judge ordering sole custody or a majority timeshare to one parent? Here are just some of the many, many, considerations a court may take into account:

  • Circumstances where a parent has committed domestic violence.
  • Circumstances where the parents are separated by distance such that equal custody and visitation is impracticable.
  • If one parent does not have the mental or physical health to care for their child.
  • If one parent refuses to obey custody orders.
  • Lifestyle choices of a parent interfere with their ability to care for a child.
  • The wishes of the child (if the child is old enough).
  • The living environment the parent can provide to the child (though “wealth” is not considered).
  • The parents agree otherwise.

As you can see from just this short list, there are many considerations a judge can take into account when determining what is “best” for child. In this way the family code is designed to give a level of flexibility to order custody and visitation based on the particular situation.

The result of the code being written in this manner is that child custody and visitation matters are extremely fact intensive: because a judge can consider so many different facts your child custody case depends on gathering up as many facts as possible and then trying to present the most powerful ones in order to convince the judge of your perspective.

The attorneys at Jones & Devoy have experience in child visitation and custody cases throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and can help you understand what are realistic goals and possible outcomes. From Oakland to San Francisco to  San Mateo to San Jose family law courts apply the law slightly differently, and, knowing the court and law is critical to the success of your case.