When California parents seek a divorce, figuring out custody of their children is one of their priorities. Custody can be awarded in a variety of ways. To understand how courts usually rule on custody, parents need to understand their rights.
What are parental rights?
In general, each parent has a right to spend time with their child to continue developing their relationship and bond. The way this time is awarded, however, depends on each family’s situation and a range of factors that the court examines to determine child custody. Some of these factors include:
- Each parent’s physical and mental condition
- The child’s age, needs and preferences on where to live
- Each parent’s relationship with the child, including who the primary caretaker had been during the marriage
- Allegations or history of a parent’s substance abuse, domestic abuse, child abuse or abandonment
In most cases, the courts prefer to have parents share the time they spend with the child as equally as possible, though other variations can also be awarded unless the child’s safety or health are endangered by being with one parent, in which case courts might grant the other parent full custody.
What types of custody are awarded?
Courts focus on two types of custody: legal and physical. Legal custody provides a parent the right to make the major decisions about their child’s life, such as how health conditions will be treated, where the child will be educated and what extracurricular activities the child will engage in. Legal custody is usually shared by both parents. Physical custody addresses where the child will live. When parents share physical custody, the child will split their time between the parents’ homes.
Ideally, courts prefer that parents reach an agreement about custody on their own. However, if you cannot find an agreement, you might have to go to court and await a decision.