Factors That California Courts Consider to Determine "Best Interests of the Child"

When review custody cases, California courts will always prioritize a judgment made in the child’s “best interests.” A parent who is petitioning to gain full custody of the child must prove to be the best possible candidate—for example, have gainful employment, a stable home in which to live and raise the child, and access to resources that will help the child thrive.

A judge may not believe a parent is fit to retain full custody if a parent has had a questionable past, such as a history of domestic violence or drug abuse. Because of the many variables involved, the courts will first begin to evaluate whether or not parent can share custody equally.

California law that governs custody decisions based on the following:

  • The first concern is the child’s safety, health, and welfare
  • The child will benefit from being in contact with both parents

Not every family will have the same set of circumstances, so a judge will also take into account the many other elements that are relevant to come to a custody decision.

What Will Affect Custody Decisions?

First and foremost, a child’s health, safety, and well-being are the priority. As an example, a parent who has shown to be physically, verbally, or emotionally abusive towards the children or spouse, will not be granted custody or visitation rights. A parent who has committed sexual assault, a violent crime, or has been convicted of murder would not be granted custody.

Here is a more expanded list of the various factors that might affect custody:

  • The child’s age
  • The relationship that the child has with his or her parents
  • The child’s preferences towards custody
  • The child’s current living arrangements and desire to continue living in the same arrangement
  • The parent’s ability to provide guidance, affection, mentorship, love, and other support
  • The parent’s ability to continue providing the child contact with the other parent
  • The parent’s ability to cooperate when it comes to making decisions, such as for child care
  • How the child will fare if one parent is solely in charge of the child’s upbringing
  • If there is a history of domestic violence
  • Any other relevant factors that might affect the child’s psychological, emotional, or physical well-being

For more information about custody matters in California, you can learn more here in from a Westlake Village child custody lawyer.