What Do Judges Look for in Child Custody Cases in California?

Parents going through a divorce often experience a unique kind of emotional turmoil. They want to model emotional stability and mature behavior to avoid making the divorce harder on their children while, at the same time, they are struggling with anger and resentment toward their co-parent. Every couple with minor children emerges from their divorce with a parenting plan which determines which parent is with the children on which day of the year and which forms the basis for the child support order. 

Even if you and your ex-spouse disagree on everything else, it is probably obvious to both of you which parent is in a better position to be with the children on school nights. If you and your spouse cannot agree on how to share parenting time, the court will make findings about the children’s best interests. A Whittier child custody lawyer can help you persuade the court that its criteria for determining the children’s best interests weigh in your favor.

The Age of the Child

  • The goal of parenting plans is for both parents to maintain a stable relationship with the child. The best way to do that varies according to the child’s age:
  • Babies and toddlers need frequent contact with both parents.  When co-parenting babies, the court might order one parent to spend certain hours each day with the child while the other parent has the child for the rest of the day.
  • For children in elementary and middle school, school schedules are a determining factor.  Most parenting plans have the children spend every school night with the same parent, but if both parents live near the school, 50/50 timesharing is a possibility.
  • High-school-aged teenagers have the chance to express their preferences about which days they spend with which parent, but their preference is not the only factor that determines the parenting plan.

The Parents’ Living Situations

As long as you are not exposing children to abuse and neglect, you are entitled to parenting time, but certain lifestyle factors can count against you. Entering a new relationship after your divorce does not count against you, but casually dating numerous people in your children’s presence can, as can badmouthing your ex or your ex’s new partner to your children. You can still have custody of your children on weeknights, even if you are at work when the children come home from school. It cannot count against you if your parent or sibling, your new spouse (your children’s stepparent), or a babysitter meets the children at the bus stop.  If your children have half-siblings on your side of the family, then the court will build a parenting plan that enables all the siblings to spend some time together.

Contact the Law Offices of Omar Gastelum About Establishing a Parenting Plan

A family law attorney can help you set up a conflict-proof parenting plan or modify an existing parenting plan. Contact the Law Offices of Omar Gastelum and Associates APLC in Whittier, California, to set up a consultation.

Family law courts base parenting time decisions on the children’s best interests, including adequate time with both parents, the parents’ living situations, and, when appropriate, the children’s preferences.