If you are a parent facing a child custody case in California, it can be incredibly daunting to consider what the outcome may mean for your family. You might have questions like “Will the courts favor mothers over fathers?” or “What types of decisions will the court make to determine who gets parental responsibility and visitation rights?” These questions are stressful to contemplate, and you may be worried that you will lose precious time with your children. You are not alone in feeling this way.
In this blog post, we'll explore these common questions and examine how judges make their decisions regarding custody arrangements. We hope that by shining some light on this complicated issue, we can provide reassurance to those going through this difficult process.
Factors That Affect Custody
In California, the main factor that affects child custody decisions is what will preserve and protect the child’s best interests and welfare. This means that the court will always prioritize the child's best interests, what the Court deems best for the child, regardless of the parents’ individual desires. Consequently, the court looks at several aspects of a family’s life when making these important decisions.
Aspects considered when making custody determinations include the:
- Health, safety, and welfare of the children
- Age of the children
- Parents’ ability to provide a stable, secure home for the children
- Current relationship dynamic between the children and each of their parents
- Wishes of the child, when appropriate (especially as the child is getting older)
Other important factors a court considers can include the parents' lifestyle, whether either parent has had struggles with drug or alcohol addiction, if there is any existing history of domestic violence, or if a parent has certain types of criminal convictions on their record. They may also look at any existing agreements between the parents, such as if a custody agreement was made during a legal separation prior to divorce.
Misconceptions About Mother’s Rights & Child Custody
Custody battles between divorcing/separating parents can be emotional and confusing for everyone involved, and often there is an assumption that mothers will get privileged treatment. This seems to stem from the fact that, historically, mothers have tended to be the ones to stay home with the children, while fathers have been more likely to work outside the home. As a result, when a couple separates in this situation, the father is the one with the established career, and what has worked best for many families is for the children to spend more time with their mother while their father continues to work and provide for them financially.
That said, what courts care about most is finding the best arrangement to protect a child's well-being without unduly disrupting their lives. A major aspect of ensuring a child’s well-being is preserving their relationship with both of their parents. As such, we are seeing more custody agreements emphasizing equal parenting time.
Counteracting Gender Bias in Custody Agreements
As society changes and more families see both parents working and/or more mothers working outside the home in general, custody arrangements have also started to change. Relatedly, people are beginning to appreciate the vitally important role fathers play in their children’s lives, and the most common custody agreement in California is now 50/50.
This is not to say that bias in the court system does not exist. Despite the legal recognition of equal rights and responsibilities for both parents, some judges may still show gender bias in these decisions. This can create an unequal playing field when one parent is fighting for an equitable and fair custody agreement.
If you fear that the court might favor your former partner based on outdated gender stereotypes, take your own steps to protect yourself and your children. Gather evidence of your commitment and abilities as a parent, such as examples of how you’ve supported your children financially, practically, and emotionally. You should then discuss your case with an attorney so that you can be prepared to go into custody negotiations and/or litigation.
Why Turn to an Attorney for Help
Ultimately, receiving a custody outcome that works for everyone can be difficult, but it is possible. It can be especially difficult if you are worried about gender bias affecting the court’s decision. This is why working with a skilled attorney can be incredibly important. An experienced lawyer can provide valuable insight into any relevant statutes or case law that may benefit your case. Your attorney can also guide you in presenting evidence and arguments in a way that shows the court why your desired arrangement is in the child's best interest.
If you are struggling with a difficult custody matter, whether you have just begun the divorce process or you already have a custody order in place that you wish to change, The Law Offices of Andrea Schneider is ready to help you. Our team has extensive experience assisting countless San Diego deal with all aspects of child custody, and we are intimately familiar with all applicable California laws.
Call our law firm at (619) 304-8499 or send us a message to schedule a confidential consultation today.