Child Custody

Determination Of Child Custody In California

In this article, you will learn…

– How custody is determined in the state of California,
– How a child can have input in their custody arrangement, and
– When you can modify your custody agreement.

How Is Custody Of Children Determined In California?

There is a legal definition when we are looking at custody in California. The best interest of the child is going to be the first principle or standard that the court looks at when deciding custody.

The best interest of the child can be subjective and that’s why it’s a very heavily litigated matter. A lot of times, both parents will have different views of what is in the best interest of their child when it comes to custody and visitation. This is more of an issue when the parents don’t get along.

One person may feel it’s in the best interest of the child for one parent to have no contact with their child and the other person may feel they should have 50/50 custody of their child. The reasons can be wildly different.

Custody can be a very complicated matter just because the best interest of a child standard is such a vague term. Trying to determine what that is can be difficult, but the starting point the court looks at is that both parents should have frequent and continuing contact with the minor child.

Then, they have to ask what is in the best interest of a child. If frequent and continuous contact doesn’t look like 50/50 or shared custody, then the court is going to say how can we give frequent and continuing contact to the parents that are also in the best interest of the child.

Is There An Age At Which A Child Can Have Input Into The Custody Arrangements?

Yes, there is an age at which a child can have input into custody arrangements. However, there is a misnomer that people think that if children get to a certain age, then they can all of the sudden dictate what will happen in terms of custody and visitation. That is not the case.

The courts start being open to input from children at the age of 12. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the child gets to come into court and testify about their wishes directly to the judge. Children under the age of 12 can sometimes have input in a different form, as well.

If a court finds that neither party is looking in the best interest of the child in making arguments regarding custody and visitation, they could appoint something called minor’s counsel. That is something where the main goal of the counsel is to speak in the best interest of the child.

Minor’s counsel isn’t the talking piece of a child. They don’t necessarily advocate whatever the child’s wishes are, but they do have the opportunity to speak with the child, gather all the information from both parents and external sources, and then speak on the child’s behalf to the court.

Be cautioned that, no matter how old your child is, the best thing that you can do for your children is to keep them out of the divorce as much as possible. You can do this by avoiding…

  • Sharing information about the divorce with your children,
  • Asking your children for their opinions on the divorce,
  • Letting them see anything court-related, or
  • Letting them hear others discussing the divorce.

Not only does the court look very poorly upon that, but there are orders usually put in place to prevent you from doing those things. It is also damaging to your child and can cause long-term negative effects on them. Our goal is to just look at their best interest and, honestly, their best interest is just being able to be kids and love their parents as best that they can.

Can Custody Or Visitation Ever Be Modified In California?

Custody or visitation can always be modified in California. Getting a judgment that’s a parentage action, which is a matter that is filed where the parties weren’t married but there are children involved, is always going to have some elements that aren’t final.

Things that are subject to modification within a parentage action are…

  • Custody,
  • Visitation, and
  • Child support.

How easy it is to get a modification will depend on where you are in the litigation status. If you file for modification early on in a case, when there is a temporary order in place, you can always modify that by letting the court know what your reasons are and why you think the modification is in the best interest of the child.

If there is a permanent order in place, then there is an additional hurdle that you have to overcome if you’re modifying custody.

Visitation is modifiable if you have a valid reason and it’s in the best interest of a child, but modifying a permanent order for custody requires you to show the court that there has been a significant change in the circumstances which would justify revisiting the custody order.

If you can’t show a significant change of circumstances, you won’t be able to move forward with your motion to modify the order. Once you have shown the court that you have a significant change of circumstances, you then revert to what is in the best interest of the child.

For more information on Determination Of Child Custody In California, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (408) 909-4586 today.

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