How Child Custody is Decided in California

Divorce can pit two spouses against each other as they vie for certain rights and pieces of communal property. Out of all the aspects of a divorce that can spark a fight and turn it into a contest, there are none that strike as close to home as child custody rights. In most divorces, both parents believe they are the best candidate for raising their children and therefore should be given primary custody. But both parents can’t be the best, just as how both can’t be primary custodians, so what does the court do to reach its decision?

What is Best for Your Children

California divorce courts, and really all of them across the country, prioritize the “best interests” of children first and foremost when coming to a decision. If a solution is inconvenient for both parents but keeps a child happy, it will probably be the conclusion the court uses. With this said, a child’s wellbeing is the strongest determining factor when creating a child custody plan, but it is not the only one.

The divorce court will also want to consider:

  • Child’s age and health
  • Standard of living at each household
  • Income and stability of each parent
  • Each parent’s criminal record
  • How much alimony is paid per month

A situation that puts undue pressure and financial strain on a parent will likely be avoided. You could have all the best intentions and wishes for your child but if being the primary caregiver would make your life considerably more difficult, you might not get the custody for which you were hoping. For example, if you work two jobs and rarely have free time, you might not be given primary custody.

The court also has the choice to work directly with the child if they are a teenager and have a clear understanding of the divorce proceedings. While this might be uncommon, it could actually be the best way to reach an amicable agreement, as the decision comes straight from the child’s mouth.

If you are entering a child custody dispute and don’t know where to turn for guidance, know that our Murrieta divorce lawyers can assist you. We have more than 50 years of combined legal experience and a strong reputation for compassionate advocacy, as backed by happy client testimonials. Learn more about your options and what you should do to help you win custody by contacting our firm today.


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