How is child custody determined in California

The end of a marriage can be a difficult time for anyone. You may be wondering what your future will look like, what aspects of your life will be different, and how your children will handle these changes.

For any parent, anxiety about how their children will cope after the divorce can often be the most stressful part of getting a divorce. Battles over custody can get messy and add unneeded hardship to an already difficult time. A child custody lawyer can set your mind at ease by providing the knowledge and resources you need to ensure that your children will be able to return to normalcy after the divorce is finalized.

The Law Offices of Patricia A. Rigdon have been helping families for over 20 years settle their divorces peacefully so that they can move forward into a brighter future. We are experts at handling unique cases like yours and finding solutions that fit every family that comes to us for assistance.

How Is Custody Determined?

In an ideal child custody case, the parents would be able to agree on a plan for their children after the divorce. This is called uncontested custody. A child custody lawyer can help the couple devise this plan and submit it to the court to be officially approved.

If the parents cannot come to an agreement (contested custody), the court will make the decision based on what they believe will be in the best interest of the child. To make this decision, the court may examine factors such as:

  • The relationships between the child and each of their parents
  • The criminal records of the parents
  • The health and safety of the child
  • The physical and mental health of both parents
  • If the parents use any controlled substances, such as drugs and alcohol
  • The age and health of the child
  • If there is any history of abuse or neglect toward the child

If the child is 12 years old or older, they are also allowed to express their desires about which parent they would like to live with. However, this desire may not be honored if the court sees the parent as unfit.

The Types of Child Custody

There are two varieties of custody that parents can be awarded: legal custody and physical custody.

Legal Custody

Parents can either hold joint legal custody or one parent can be given sole legal custody. Legal custody deals with making important decisions for the child, such as:

  • Where they will go to school
  • If they will go to a religious institution
  • Where they will receive medical treatment such as dental work and yearly checkups
  • If they will be involved in any extracurricular activities such as sports or clubs
  • Any other matters related to their welfare

If parents share joint custody, they may not agree on every decision regarding their child’s life, but it is important to talk about these matters beforehand so there are no misunderstandings or disagreements after the divorce is finalized.

If only one parent is granted sole legal custody, then this parent will be solely responsible for making any important decisions for their child.

Physical Custody

Physical custody involves determining who the child will legally live with. Oftentimes, one parent is given sole physical custody, but the other parent is granted visitation rights for specific weekends, holidays, or vacations. In some cases, parents may agree to divide physical custody between the two of them, but this is not always ideal for the child since it means they will be in a constantly changing environment. This may work well if both parents live close to the child’s school and are able to provide their child with the same care and attention.


Q: Who Gets Primary Custody in California?

A: California does not favor one parent over the other when determining child custody. Instead, they determine custody arrangements by discerning what scenario is in the best interest of the child. Legal custody is usually shared by both parents, but one parent may have sole physical custody. However, every unique case is different, and if the court sees one parent as unfit to share legal custody, then it is possible for one parent to hold sole legal custody as well.

Q: What Makes a Father Unfit for Custody in California?

A: Whether it is the father or mother, a parent can be unfit for a shared custody agreement if they have a history of violence, drug/alcohol abuse, neglect, or if they are unable to provide a safe home for the child where all of their needs can be met. Before the court denies one parent shared custody, substantial evidence against the parent must be presented.

Q: How Can a Father Get 50/50 Custody in California?

A: A father can absolutely share custody with the child’s mother in California. The most typical arrangement for parents is to share joint legal custody. This means that both parents will have a mutual say in the important decision-making for their child. These decisions could involve where their child goes to school, to the doctor, etc. Physical custody can also be shared, but it is not as common.

Q: Who Determines Custody in California?

A: Ideally, the parents will work together with the help of a child custody lawyer to devise a suitable child custody plan. It will detail where the child will live as well as decisions regarding important matters in their life. The lawyer will then submit this agreement to the court for final approval. If the parents cannot agree, the court will make these decisions in the best interests of the child.

Put the Welfare of Your Child in Experienced Hands

We understand that your children are the most important people in your life, and their wellbeing means the world to you. That is why the Law Offices of Patricia Rigdon have been working with families in and around Pasadena, California, during some of their most trying times. Divorce is never easy, but with the help of experienced professionals, you can have peace of mind knowing that, after your divorce is over, you will be able to rebuild and start life anew with the assurance that everything will be okay. Do not wait another day to put your trust in us. Contact us today.