For parents, few things matter more than being able to see their children on a regular basis and building a lasting bond with them. As you can imagine, divorce and legal separations can complicate matters, making it difficult for parents to regularly see their children without also having to see their ex more.
In order to preserve the relationship between a child and their parents, family law judges will often decide on a custody arrangement that is not only fair to both parents but coincides with the child's best interests. But what exactly does "a child's best interests" mean and what does this mean for custody arrangements?
What types of custody are there?
In California, there are two types of custody: legal and physical. Legal custody allows parents to make major decisions concerning the child's life and wellbeing. Such decisions can include, but are not limited to things like where the child goes to school, where the child receives medical treatment and what types of sports or activities the child may participate in.
Physical custody, on the other hand, determines where the child will reside, for how long and at what intervals. Just like with legal custody, physical custody may be a relatively 50/50 split, called joint custody, or a decision that places one parent as the primary custodial parent, called sole custody.
What do judges take into consideration?
Just because a judge awards joint legal custody does not mean they will also grant joint physical custody. That's because judges take into consideration the best interests of the child. What is this? Well, in California, judges follow Section 3011 of the California Family Code, which includes everything from the health and welfare of the child to how likely parents are to allow their child to see the other parent.
Depending on the specifics of the situation, a judge may not see joint physical custody as the best option, even though judges are supposed to consider this option above all others.
So who gets the kids in a custody battle?
It all depends on the facts of the case and what arrangement will truly be in the children's best interests. As a precaution, parents going through custody battles are encouraged to seek legal representation to ensure their parental rights are being protected and that a fair custody determinations is truly being made.