• Blog >
  • How do courts determine what is in a child’s best interests?

How do courts determine what is in a child’s best interests?

If you are going through or anticipating a separation or divorce, having a general understanding of how the courts decide child custody is imperative. It will help you better navigate the child custody process and give you the knowledge you need to protect your parental rights.

A court will not automatically give custody to a mother or father purely based on the age or sex of the child. Instead, California courts primarily make custody decisions based on what is in the child’s best interests. Some key factors taken into account are:

  • The child’s health ꟷ If a child has a health condition, the court will consider each parent’s ability to manage the child’s health condition, pay for required medications and treatment, and make any work schedule adjustments to ensure adequate care.
  • Emotional ties between the child and each parent ꟷ The court will consider how much time each parent has put into raising the child, along with how much time they can continue to commit. If a parent has a nonexistent or distant relationship with their child, their case for child custody may be weakened.
  • Each parent’s ability to care for the child ꟷ The court looks for evidence that the parent requesting custody is genuinely able to meet the child’s physical and emotional needs, including food, shelter, clothing, medical care, education, emotional support, and parental guidance. Courts also consider each parent’s physical and mental health.
  • Each parent’s history of family violence or substance abuse ꟷ The judge will consider drug, alcohol or prescription abuse, domestic violence and child abuse accusations. The court might also seek independent confirmation for any of these factors along with child abuse allegations from police, the social welfare department and any agency that provides drug and alcohol abuse rehabilitation.
  • The ties the child has to school, home and the community ꟷ Keeping a child’s routine consistent is a high priority when deciding custody, so the court will give preference to the parent who can best maintain the child’s daily routine, such as keeping the child enrolled in their current school and allowing them to remain in the same community.
  • The child’s preference ꟷ The court may take the children’s wishes into account when the child is old enough to have sufficient capacity to reason. The older the child, the more likely the judge will give the child’s opinion substantial consideration.

At Strategic Law Command, our lawyers understand how hard it can be to get life back on track in the middle of a family law concern. Our team of skilled attorneys can guide you to the best solution to address all your concerns. If you are going through a divorce or child custody matter, call us at (916) 787-1234 or contact us online to set up a consultation.