California Child Custody – Who Gets Custody?

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 a 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, 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.

If you are involved in a child custody battle with the other parent, grandparent, stepparent, or any other person, you would be wise to consult a California family law attorney to help you learn where you stand legally and what your legal options are with respect to your child custody rights and visitation rights.

Copyright © 2007 Child Custody Coach

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