Child Custody

How Does the Court Determine Child Custody in San Diego?

During divorce or separation proceedings in San Diego, most parents reach shared custody arrangements without assistance or with the help of attorneys. When couples cannot reach a custody plan independently, the court system may be required to intervene. If a judge needs to step in to make the decision, there will be a hearing scheduled where the judge will consider many factors and reports. The judge may also require parents to meet with a family court mediator.

When the court is determining custodial rights, it awards the following types of custody to parents:

Legal Custody: Parents can be awarded shared/joint or sole legal custody. Shared/joint legal custody means both parents have the right to be informed and shared in the obligations of a child’s health and educational matters. If a parent is awarded sole legal custody, they would be charged with making any significant health and educational choices alone. Parents with shared legal custody will have equal input when considering issues of legal custody.

Legal custody typically includes issues likes:

Educational or daycare choices

Religious interactions

Mental health needs

Doctor’s appointments and medical needs

Extracurricular activities

Physical Custody: Parents can receive shared/joint, primary, or sole physical custody. Shared/joint physical custody means minor children live at both parent’s houses. Visitation establishes when and how often the child is at one of the homes. Primary physical custody means parents share custody, but one parent has physical custody of the child more often than the other.

Sole physical custody can be assigned to one parent, which means one parent has the child most likely more than the other parent. As children age, parents will discover that it is difficult to split a child’s time equally. The spirit of shared and primary physical custody arrangements is awarded on the belief a child will have the benefit of time with their other parent as much as is feasible.

What Does a Child’s Best Interest Mean?

In California, the main factor that drives child custody decisions is the child’s best interest. A great deal of discretion is used in California courts to determine child custody decisions. When the court system is given the responsibility of determining custody, the primary factor it will consider is what is in the child's best interest in the case. A child’s best interest may seem like a broad determining factor, but the court considers a child’s best interest to include issues such as:

  • The child’s wishes if they’re over the age of 12
  • The emotional and mental stability of each parent
  • The emotional and mental stability of the child
  • Any history of violence, criminal activity, drugs or alcohol
  • Each parent’s availability to monitor and care for the child

Because the scope of the child’s best interest is such a broad consideration, the court has a good deal of leeway when making custody arrangements. It’s always preferable for parents to work together to create a parenting plan both can honor. Shows your child better than you? Attorney Schneider loves helping families draft very specific child custody and visitation agreements that are right for the needs of their family. By giving the court this awesome responsibility, parents are giving the court the power to make this important decision.

Five Factors Taken Into Consideration in California Child Custody Cases

Custody and visitation issues are determined by how they will impact the well-being of the children in involved in a divorce/separation case. When judges are deciding child custody cases in California, several factors are considered before determining legal and physical custody. Divorce is a serious issue for couples because it can change the course of one’s life. We know adults are emotionally impacted by divorce, so there’s little surprise it’s even more impactful on the lives of children. Because of the importance of parents in children's lives, courts try to balance parental involvement with the child's best interest when making all decisions impacting the custody process. Making custody decisions is an important responsibility the court doesn’t take lightly.

The judge will focus on additional factors, such as:

  • The Child’s Age:
    • The court is invested in preserving the parental relationship, whether the child is a newborn or a preteen. But, the court also understands that a newborn can suffer when custody rules are applied while the child is being nursed. It wouldn’t be in the best
    • interest of a nursing newborn to have a traditional 50/50 shared custodial plan established. Similarly, age can be considered if the minor is a teenager with an informed opinion about their custodial situation.
  • The Child’s Health:
    • If a child has health issues that one parent is better equipped to provide, it could be a factor that must be considered and weighed against the feasibility of a traditional shared custodial situation.
  • State of the Parental Relationship:
    • Parents have an important role in their children's lives, whether they’ve been present for the child’s day-to-day life or not. A judge may consider how a shared custodial situation could disrupt the life of an established routine if one parent has been largely
    • absent from their child’s life.
  • Community Ties & Educational Welfare:
    • Preserving a child’s daily life is an important goal when determining custodial situations. If a child is thriving and happy in a school and community and one parent is better equipped to provide a continuation of this environment, the court could consider
    • how changing an established educational plan could impact the child's well-being.
  • Safety and Wellness Issues:
    • If one parent is better able to provide an emotionally stable home life removed from environmental and emotional dangers, the court will consider how a child’s quality of life would be worsened in abusive, unsafe, or neglectful environments. If there is evidence
    • a parent is abusing drugs or alcohol or engaging in unsafe or illegal activity, the court will consider how shared custody could put a minor child in danger.
  • Willingness of one parent to “share” the child with the other parent:
    • The court is reluctant to give a parent custody of the child if they
    • don’t feel they will abide by the order/agreement for the other parent to have time with their child.

La Mesa Child Custody Lawyer

At the Law Offices of Andrea Schneider, clients will find a supportive legal team committed to helping them resolve their family law issues. Attorney Schneider has over 25 years of experience working on child custody cases throughout San Diego County. Call our office today at (619) 304-8499 to schedule a consultation.

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