Who Gets Child Custody in California?
Like most states, the standard for child custody determinations in California is the overall best interest of the child with an emphasis on assuring the "health, safety, and welfare" of the child and "frequent and continuing contact" with both parents absent child abuse, domestic violence, or where the contact would not be in the best interest of the child as provided in the California family code section 3011 (See California Family Code Section 3011, 3020, 3040, 3080. Further, according to California family code section 3040, child custody should be granted in an order of preference and according to the best interest of the child.
A common challenge for the court is to decide who will get custody of the child. Child custody may be petitioned by parents, grandparents, stepparents, or any person who believes they can provide suitable care and guidance to the child. So how does the California family court or California judge handle competing persons seeking custody of the child? According to California family code section 3040 child custody should be granted in an order of preference and according to the best interest of the child. The court looks first to grant custody to both parents jointly or to either parent before looking to grant custody to other persons. California however does not currently establish a preference or a presumption for or against joint custody arrangements. Instead, if the parents are unable to come to an agreement on child custody and visitation it allows the California family court or California judge to make the parenting arrangement decision on a case-by-case basis according to what it believes reflects the overall best interest of the child. If neither parent is granted custody, then the court may look towards the person's home in which the child has been living and the stability of that environment and then to any person deemed by the court to be able to provide appropriate care for the child. In short, the court will typically look to grant child custody first to the parents according the best interest of the child and if they are deemed unfit the court will then look to grant child custody to other persons according to the best interest of the child.
California Family Code Section 3040 states,
3040. (a) Custody should be granted in the following order of
preference according to the best interest of the child as provided in
Sections 3011 and 3020:
(1) To both parents jointly pursuant to Chapter 4 (commencing with
Section 3080) or to either parent. In making an order granting
custody to either parent, the court shall consider, among other
factors, which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent and
continuing contact with the noncustodial parent, consistent with
Section 3011 and 3020, and shall not prefer a parent as custodian
because of that parent's sex. The court, in its discretion, may
require the parents to submit to the court a plan for the
implementation of the custody order.
(2) If to neither parent, to the person or persons in whose home
the child has been living in a wholesome and stable environment.
(3) To any other person or persons deemed by the court to be
suitable and able to provide adequate and proper care and guidance
for the child.
(b) This section establishes neither a preference nor a
presumption for or against joint legal custody, joint physical
custody, or sole custody, but allows the court and the family the
widest discretion to choose a parenting plan that is in the best
interest of the child.
California Child Custody Laws: Best Interest of the Child Standard
California Family Code Section 3011 states,
3011.In making a determination of the best interest of the child in a proceeding described in Section 3021, the court shall, among any other factors it finds relevant, consider all of the following:
(a) The health, safety, and welfare of the child.
(b) Any history of abuse by one parent or any other person seeking custody against any of the following:
(1) Any child to whom he or she is related by blood or affinity or with whom he or she has had a caretaking relationship, no matter how temporary.
(2) The other parent.
(3) A parent, current spouse, or cohabitant, of the parent or person seeking custody, or a person with whom the parent or person seeking custody has a dating or engagement relationship.
As a prerequisite to the consideration of allegations of abuse, the court may require substantial independent corroboration, including, but not limited to, written reports by law enforcement agencies, child protective services or other social welfare agencies, courts, medical facilities, or other public agencies or private nonprofit organizations providing services to victims of sexual assault or domestic violence. As used in this subdivision, "abuse against a child" means "child abuse" as defined in Section 11165.6 of the Penal Code and abuse against any of the other persons described in paragraph (2) or (3) means "abuse" as defined in Section 6203 of this code.
(c) The nature and amount of contact with both parents.
(d) The habitual or continual illegal use of controlled substances or habitual or continual abuse of alcohol by either parent. Before considering these allegations, the court may first require independent corroboration, including, but not limited to, written reports from law enforcement agencies, courts, probation departments, social welfare agencies, medical facilities, rehabilitation facilities, or other public agencies or nonprofit organizations providing drug and alcohol abuse services. As used in this subdivision, "controlled substances" has the same meaning as defined in the California Uniform Controlled Substances Act, Division 10 (commencing with Section 11000) of the Health and Safety Code.
(e) (1) Where allegations about a parent pursuant to subdivision (b) or (d) have been brought to the attention of the court in the current proceeding, and the court makes an order for sole or joint custody to that parent, the court shall state its reasons in writing or on the record. In these circumstances, the court shall ensure that any order regarding custody or visitation is specific as to time, day, place, and manner of transfer of the child as set forth in subdivision (b) of Section 6323. (2) The provisions of this subdivision shall not apply if the parties stipulate in writing or on the record regarding custody or visitation.
California Child Custody Laws: Health, Safety, and Welfare of the Child
Under the best interest of the child standard the "health, safety, and welfare" of the child is a relevant factor the family court must consider in making a child determination on child custody and visitation.
California Family Code Section 3020 (a) states,
3020. (a) The Legislature finds and declares that it is the public
policy of this state to assure that the health, safety, and welfare
of children shall be the court's primary concern in determining the
best interest of children when making any orders regarding the
physical or legal custody or visitation of children. The Legislature
further finds and declares that the perpetration of child abuse or
domestic violence in a household where a child resides is detrimental
to the child.
California Child Custody Laws: Frequent and Continuing Contact with Both Parents
Absent child abuse, domestic violence, or where the contact would not be in the best interest of the child, the family court must promote frequent and continuing contact with both parents such that the parents share the rights and responsibilities of raising their child when the parents divorce or separate.
California Family Code Section 3020 (b) states,
3020. (b) The Legislature finds and declares that it is the public
policy of this state to assure that children have frequent and
continuing contact with both parents after the parents have separated
or dissolved their marriage, or ended their relationship, and to
encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities of child
rearing in order to effect this policy, except where the contact
would not be in the best interest of the child, as provided in
When Frequent and Continuing Contact Conflicts with Health, Safety, and Welfare of the Child
When frequent and continuing contact with both parents is in conflict with the health, safety, and welfare of the child in a child custody and visitation determination, the family court must first ensure the health, safety, and welfare of the child and all family matters.
California Family Code Section 3020 (c) states,
3020. (c) Where the policies set forth in subdivisions (a) and (b) of
this section are in conflict, any court's order regarding physical or
legal custody or visitation shall be made in a manner that ensures
the health, safety, and welfare of the child and the safety of all
California Child Custody Laws: California Family Code
DIVISION 8. CUSTODY OF CHILDREN
|PART 1. DEFINITIONS AND GENERAL PROVISIONS
|CHAPTER 1. DEFINITIONS
|CHAPTER 2. GENERAL PROVISIONS
|PART 2. RIGHT TO CUSTODY OF MINOR CHILD
|CHAPTER 1. GENERAL PROVISIONS
|CHAPTER 2. MATTERS TO BE CONSIDERED IN GRANTING CUSTODY
|CHAPTER 3. TEMPORARY CUSTODY ORDER DURING PENDENCY OF PROCEEDING
|CHAPTER 4. JOINT CUSTODY
|CHAPTER 5. VISITATION RIGHTS
|CHAPTER 6. CUSTODY INVESTIGATION AND REPORT
|CHAPTER 7. ACTION FOR EXCLUSIVE CUSTODY
|CHAPTER 8. LOCATION OF MISSING PARTY OR CHILD
|CHAPTER 9. CHECK TO DETERMINE WHETHER CHILD IS MISSING PERSON
|CHAPTER 10. APPOINTMENT OF COUNSEL TO REPRESENT CHILD
|CHAPTER 11. MEDIATION OF CUSTODY AND VISITATION ISSUES
|Article 1. General Provisions
|Article 2. Availability of Mediation
|Article 3. Mediation Proceedings
|CHAPTER 12. COUNSELING OF PARENTS AND CHILD
|CHAPTER 13. SUPERVISED VISITATION AND EXCHANGE SERVICES, EDUCATION, AND COUNSELING
|PART 3. UNIFORM CHILD CUSTODY JURISDICTION AND ENFORCEMENT ACT
|CHAPTER 1. GENERAL PROVISIONS
|CHAPTER 2. JURISDICTION
|CHAPTER 3. ENFORCEMENT
|CHAPTER 4. MISCELLANEOUS PROVISIONS
Click Here for California Family Code
California Child Custody Laws: California Family Code
OTHER DIVISIONS IN THE CALIFORNIA FAMILY CODE
|DIVISION 1. Preliminary Provisions and Definitions
|DIVISION 2. General Provisions
|DIVISION 2.5. Domestic Partner Registration
|DIVISION 3. Marriage
|DIVISION 4. Rights and Obligations During Marriage
|DIVISION 5. Concilliation Proceedings
|DIVISION 6. Nullity, Dissolution, and Legal Separation
|DIVISION 7. Division of Property
|DIVISION 8. Custody of Children
|DIVISION 9. Support
|DIVISION 10. Prevention of Domestic Violence
|DIVISION 11. Minors
|DIVISION 12. Parent and Child Relationship
|DIVISION 13. Adoption
|DIVISION 14. Family Law Facilitator Act
|DIVISION 17. Support Services
|DIVISION 20. Pilot Projects
Click Here for California Family Code
How Can I Get California Child Custody Help?
The phone coaching sessions are designed so you can have a fast, efficient, and economical way of scheduling a coaching session to discuss your child custody, child custody evaluation, and/or divorce related matter via telephone in the comfort and privacy of your own home. Phone coaching is flexible and allows you the opportunity to request an appointment before work, after work, or on a weekend or at any time that is convenient for you. The phone coaching session can often be scheduled and take place the same day payment is made and forms are received for those seeking immediate coaching. For full details about fees and how to get started click here.
The in-person coaching sessions are designed for parents who prefer face-to-face meetings and are held in Orange County California. Southern California residents in Orange County, Los Angeles, Ventura, Long Beach, Riverside, San Bernardino, and San Diego will often request to discuss their matters with me in-person. In-person coaching sessions are held in the Mission Viejo area or Costa Mesa area in South Orange County California and are an option made available to persons who can travel to one of these two locations. For full details about fees and how to get started click here.
Monthly coaching is designed to provide ongoing coaching and support throughout the month and provides for an economical way of receiving such support on matters such as divorce, child custody, move-aways, post-judgment modifications, child custody evaluations, etc. Fees are known up front so there are no surprises. This also allows you to choose the plan that is right for you and also works within your budget. Weekly coaching sessions and email communications allow you to discuss your child custody matters, developments, and results regularly throughout the month. For full details on fees and how to get started click here.