Puja Sachdev | June 15, 2021 | Child Custody
If you are going through a custody battle, it helps to know what the judge might consider when deciding what type of custody to award. The court considers many factors, such as the age and health of the child and their parents. A judge might also consider the emotional ties between the child and each parent.
The California Family Code sets forth the factors the judge must consider in each custody case. It also includes factors the judge may not consider, such as the gender identity, sex, sexual orientation, or gender expression of either parent.
Six Factors That Courts Consider When Deciding Custody Cases
Many factors could impact the outcome of your custody case. Below are six of the common factors that judges consider when awarding custody:
1. Ability to Support the Child
The court looks closely at whether a parent can support a child. Supporting a child includes providing for the child’s financial needs and their emotional needs and wellbeing.
A parent’s income is not a consideration in their ability to support a child. However, the income of each parent is used to calculate child support payments.
The ability to support a child can include the inclination and resolve to ensure that the child’s needs are met, given the family’s circumstances. It means providing a safe, clean home and encouraging a relationship between the child and the other parent. Supporting a child includes ensuring the child attends school and develops good habits and a regular routine.
2. History of Domestic Violence or Allegations of Abuse
If there are allegations of abuse or domestic violence, the court will investigate the case thoroughly. The court will not place the child in a situation where the child could be harmed or injured.
It is important to remember that some parents may use false allegations of abuse or violence as a weapon in custody cases. If you are accused of abuse or domestic violence, contact a family law attorney immediately for help. You could lose custody of your children and be required to have supervised visitation.
3. Stability and Schedules
A judge may be reluctant to remove a child from a stable home environment, especially if moving the child would cause unnecessary emotional distress and anxiety. So the courts try to keep the children in the home they know. They also try to keep the children’s schedules as unaffected as possible.
The goal is to allow the children to have a close relationship with both parents without causing too much change. Children feel the effects of a divorce, sometimes more than the parents. Therefore, keeping their schedules and home environment as stable as possible reduces the negative impact of the divorce.
A judge may look at school schedules, sports schedules, extracurricular activities, and social engagements. The parents may need to work the child custody and time-sharing plans around the child’s schedule whenever possible.
4. A Child’s Preference
The judge may consider a child’s preference for custody. The preferences of older, more mature children may be given more weight compared to younger children. Judges must always be cautious about parental manipulation when factoring a child’s preference into custody arrangements.
Parents may manipulate children and attempt to alienate a child from the other parent to “win” a custody battle. Parental alienation and manipulation are incredibly detrimental to the child.
5. Other Individuals in the Home
The court also considers other individuals in each home. For example, moving a child away from step-siblings or half-siblings could be detrimental to the child’s emotional wellbeing. Likewise, move a child into a home with a step-parent or another adult who has a history of abuse allegations is not wise.
The judge carefully looks at the occupants of each home and weighs the child’s best interest against the parents’ needs and desires.
6. Allegations of Substance Abuse
A child may not be safe living with a parent who has an alcohol or drug problem. In these situations, the judge may opt to award custody to the other parent. As with abuse and violence, a spouse could use false allegations of substance abuse as a weapon to gain full custody of a child.
Get Help with a Custody Case Sooner Rather Than Later
Custody cases can be challenging. Even if your child’s other parent appears willing to work out a joint custody agreement, they could change their mind at any moment.
It is best to have an experienced San Diego custody lawyer on your side from the very beginning. As soon as you suspect that you and your partner might separate or divorce, talk with a divorce attorney immediately. An attorney can help you take steps even before the case is filed that protects your best interest and the best interest of your children.