California Family Code 3020 lists the court’s focus on a child’s interests when determining custody and visitation, focusing on the child’s welfare and safety.
Custody cases, whether they are part of a divorce case or not, are legally complex and emotionally difficult for many families. In California, the court holds a child’s interests as a legal priority in any custody case. The court assumes that it’s in a child’s interests to have continued contact with both of their parents. If this is untrue because a parent fails to fulfill fundamental parental responsibilities and/or poses a danger to a child, this needs to be proven during a custody case.
If you are involved in a custody case, it’s in your interests to work with an attorney. You may:
At Quinn & Dworakowski, LLP, we have more than 40 years of experience in family law and the court system. Our attorneys know how frustrating and emotional a custody determination can be. The process becomes much easier to navigate with the knowledge and experience of a skilled child custody attorney. An attorney can help you understand how custody laws impact your case, whether you are working cooperatively with your co-parent or engaged in litigation.
Family Code Section 2030 outlines a child’s right to live in a safe and caring environment that is free of domestic abuse and violence. Under California law, the health, safety, and welfare of a child are the court’s main priorities in determining physical custody, legal custody, and visitation. Children have the right to be safe and live in a household free of domestic violence.
Section 2030 also believes that children should have continued and frequent contact with both parents after separation. The court aims for both parents to work collaboratively towards a shared parenting plan and co-parenting decisions. However, this is not the case if it is not in the child’s interests.
There are times a child’s right to safety conflicts with the court’s wish for both parents to co-parent a child. Custody and visitation decisions are then made with a child’s health and safety as the priority. If one parent is proven to be abusive, or to provide an unsafe living environment where abuse or violence is present, this would be grounds for the removal of custody rights and/or limited visitation rights. How a court handles custody and visitation depends on the specifics of a family’s circumstances.
Additionally, Section 2030 establishes a policy that a parent’s or potential legal guardian’s sex, gender identity and expression, or sexual orientation does not impact the determination of a child’s interests.
Custody in California is divided into legal custody and joint custody. Legal custody is the ability of a parent to make decisions for their child regarding healthcare, education, and other essential choices. Physical custody refers to a child living with a parent. Custody is generally ordered as one of the following:
Many parents and potential guardians believe they are able to argue for custody rights on their own, but you are much more likely to succeed in your case with an attorney. An attorney can gather important evidence and references to support your claims and advocate for why your plan is in the child’s interests. Working with an attorney allows you to approach your case more confidently and effectively.
A: The court prefers that parents work together on a parenting plan, but it will create one if parents cannot. The court looks at several factors when determining what is in the interests of a child, including:
A: A child’s preference is often considered, but a judge is never required to listen to that preference. California allows children 14 and older to voice their preference, but children of any age can have their preference considered. The more mature and intelligent a court believes a child to be, the more weight is given to their opinions.
A: An environment that is harmful to a child’s health, welfare, and safety is not in a child’s interest. This includes situations where there is violence or abuse in the home or where a parent is negligent in their child’s care. If a parent or guardian is unable or unwilling to provide for basic needs such as shelter, healthcare, food, and clothing, this is not in the child’s interests, and they will likely not be awarded custody by the court.
A: An unfit parent is a parent who fails to provide their child with essential care, support, and guidance. Domestic violence, abuse, and substance misuse also make for an unfit parent. The court may look at other factors, such as:
These may or may not make a parent unfit, but they may impact a court’s custody determinations.
Our attorneys have worked for years in family courts and have experience in mediation and litigation. Contact Quinn & Dworakowski, LLP, today.
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