When two adults decide that they want to get a divorce, it's only a matter of dividing properties and separating their lives. However, when there are children involved, the divorce process also involves child custody arrangements. If you are planning to get a divorce with children, you should prepare by going over child custody laws and factors that affect custody decisions.

In California, what's in the best interest of the child is always the top priority in family law cases. Most of the laws regarding child custody in the state are centered on what is ideal for the well-being of the child. Here are a few of the affecting factors regarding child custody in the state of California that every parent should know when facing a divorce.

Judges in California Favor Stability for the Child

If your child has always lived in the same city, attended the same school and had a primary caregiver, then this will be heavily considered during custody determination. Judges in California are well known for preferring stability and continuity of a child's environment when making decisions about which parent takes primary guardianship.

Whatever parent was the primary caregiver of the children in the relationship may be the preferred custodian. This parent would have the strongest bond with the child, know more about their medical needs and be a more logical guardian. For example, one parent may be the preferred custodian if:

  • One parent worked long hours and the other stayed home with the kids
  • One parent handled doctor's appointments, school activities and most daily care
  • One parent kept the children with them during separation before the divorce

Not disrupting the child's environment is best for the development and interests of the child. Therefore, if one parent plans to move out of state after the divorce or otherwise completely change the child's usual environment, then this can also affect the court's preferred primary guardian.

Judges in California Do Consider the Child's Wants

Unlike other states, there is no specific age that a child can interject their wants during a child custody case. Therefore, judges in family court may consider the child's preferred living arrangements during the proceedings if the child seems mature enough to make those judgments.

The child's decision about which parent they would rather live with is usually not the only deciding factor in these cases because in the end, what will be best for the child overall is what has the most bearing. However, the child's preference will be taken into consideration as part of the bigger picture. 

Judges in California Prefer Adept Co-Parenting Skills

Even though tensions can run high with a child custody case, it is important not to let your emotions get in the way of you maintaining a positive relationship with your child's other parent. In California, it is highly favored by the judge when a parent shows that they are willing to effectively co-parent with their ex. 

In some cases, a judge will use this positive co-parenting outlook as one of the determining factors of who should have primary custody of the child. This is because, with this decision made, there is a higher likelihood that the custodial parent will encourage the child to continue to have a good relationship with the other parent in spite of the divorce. 

If you are heading for a divorce and you have children, don't wait to educate yourself about the child custody laws in the state of California. If you believe your child custody case will be complicated, contact us at Dougherty & Associates for professional legal guidance you can rely on.