Child Custody Disputes: Understanding the Factors that Determine Custodial Arrangements

You and your ex-spouse might disagree about how you should divide your parenting time and what each of you should and should not do while the children are with you. The courts of California will intervene in child custody disputes, but most of their decisions will contain language to the effect that there is not simply one right answer about how to share parenting time and decisions about parenting.

Of course, there are some situations and behaviors that the court recognizes as detrimental to the well-being of children, but as long as you avoid those, you are free to choose a co-parenting arrangement that works well for you. Co-parenting is hard, even if you and your ex-spouse are committed to providing stability for your children. It still takes time and effort to draft a parenting plan, and it is sometimes necessary to modify your parenting plan when circumstances change, or when child custody disputes arise. A Whittier child custody lawyer can help you resolve disputes with your ex-spouse about parenting plans and parenting time.

Common Child Custody Disputes

Most of the time, it is about what works best for your family. Do not let the clickbait that appears at the top of your Google search results or the fear-mongering of the 24-hour news cycle intimidate you into thinking that, if you get divorced, the court will micromanage every aspect of your relationship with your children or that your ex-spouse will be able to manipulate the court into taking your children away from you. Every divorce case that involves minor children must result in a parenting plan, and the court will refer you to mediation to work out the details. The parenting plan includes provisions about which parent is with the children on which days of the year, including holidays, as well as about transportation responsibilities and how to divide the authority to make decisions about the children’s education, extracurricular activities, and non-emergency medical care.

In most cases, drafting a parenting plan simply means setting in writing the schedule your family has already been following during your separation from your spouse. Most families do not disagree about which parent would have an easier time keeping the children on school nights, since the school bus routes are already set. Likewise, you know which transportation arrangements work best, given your work schedule and your spouse’s. The court will take you at your word that this is what works best for your family.

Determining the Child’s Best Interest

When you and your spouse disagree about one or more provisions of the parenting plan and cannot resolve these disagreements during mediation, your case will go to trial. The judge will decide based on the children’s best interests. These are some factors that contribute to the California family courts’ decisions about the best interests of children:

  • Each parent should encourage the children to have a stable relationship with both parents.  The court can penalize a parent who fails to exercise his or her parenting time or who interferes with the other parent’s ability to exercise his or her parenting time. Saying negative things about your ex-spouse in the presence of your children can also count against you.
  • Parents should keep their children away from preventable hazards to the children’s safety.  It can count against you if there is domestic violence in the household, regardless of whether the children were victims. The presence of illegal drugs in the household can also count against you.
  • Parents should provide adequate supervision and care for their children. It can count against you if you leave young children home alone or if you transport them in the car without age-appropriate car seats.
  • The judge may ask teenagers about their preferences for a timesharing schedule. They may use the teens’ statements as a factor in determining parenting time, but it is up to the judge to decide whether the teen’s preferences are realistic and whether his or her reasons for this preference are reasonable.

You do not have to be a perfect angel to have the right to parenting time. It does not count against you if, during your parenting time, extended family members or paid babysitters care for the children during your work hours. It also does not count against you if you remarry or enter a dating relationship. If you and your ex-spouse disagree on matters such as religion or politics, the court does not take a position on which of you it agrees with.

Contact the Law Offices of Omar Gastelum About Child Custody Disputes

A family law attorney can help you resolve disputes over your parenting plan in mediation or at trial. Contact the Law Offices of Omar Gastelum and Associates APLC in Whittier, California, to set up a consultation.


A Whittier child custody lawyer can help you get a fair share of parenting time and agree on a parenting plan that serves your children’s best interests.