Child Custody & Visitation
What Courts Consider When Determining Custody of a Child in California

What Courts Consider When Determining Custody of a Child in California

Date: May 26, 2023
In: Child Custody & Visitation

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What Courts Consider When Determining Custody of a Child in California

If you are facing a divorce involving children or have custody concerns outside of marriage and divorce, you almost certainly have questions, and not the least of these relates to how California courts go about determining custody. Having a better understanding of the court’s stance can help you gain a greater perspective in relation to your own case. One of the most important steps anyone with a child custody concern can take is reaching out for the professional legal counsel of an experienced California child custody attorney

Distinguishing between Legal and Physical Custody 

The State of California addresses child custody in terms of both legal and physical custody, and it is important to make this distinction. Legal custody focuses on making primary parenting decisions like the following:

  • Which school or daycare children will attend
  • Healthcare
  • Travel plans, vacations, and summer breaks
  • Extracurriculars and sports
  • Religious upbringing and education

Full legal custody – or sole legal custody – means that one parent has the sole discretion to make these important decisions. Joint legal custody can take a range of forms that involve some level of collaboration within this decision-making process. 

Physical custody refers to what most parents think of in relation to child custody, and that is where the children will live. Like legal custody, physical custody can be shared among both parents, or one parent may have sole physical custody.

Similar to custody, parenting time refers to when the children are with one parent and when they are with the other. This concept, formally known as visitation, helps ensure that children receive quality time with each parent whenever possible.

Best Interest of the Child Factors

It is important to understand that California courts base every child custody determination on the best interests of the involved children. Unless a compelling reason exists for ruling otherwise, courts find that maximizing the time children spend with each parent is beneficial. California courts can consider any factor they deem relevant to the child’s best interest, along with these factors listed in the state’s Family Code:

  • The child’s general health, safety, and welfare
  • If one or both parents seeking custody has a history of abuse against the child in question, or another child or spouse
  • The nature and extent of each parent’s current relationship with the child
  • A parent’s use of drugs or alcohol

Seeking Full Physical Custody

A parent who seeks to seriously limit the other’s custody or parenting time – or to bar it completely – must have a significant reason for doing so. Consider the following common examples:

  • A finding of child abuse against the other parent
  • A finding of domestic violence against the other parent
  • Habitual, frequent, or continual use of either alcohol or illegal drugs by the other parent

The court takes findings like these into very careful consideration in child custody cases, and the parent whose custody stands to be limited has the right to rebut the presumption that limitations are in order.  

Discuss Your Case with an Experienced California Child Custody Attorney Today

The trusted child custody attorneys at Miranda, Magden & Miranda, LLP – proudly serving both Monterey and Salinas – have a wealth of experience helping clients like you obtain child custody arrangements that support their parental rights and their children’s best interests. For more information, please do not wait to contact us today.

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