The overriding principle which the court will use, by California law (Family Code Section 3040), is the “best interest” test, which give a judge broad discretion to consider evidence and set a custody, visitation, and parenting plan which is in the best interest of the minor or minors. There are specific factors which the court will consider, which are also set forth in the California family law code.
Factors the court will consider include:
*The child’s health, safety, and general welfare.
*Past conduct of the parties.
*The amount of contact in the past with both parents.
*In older children, the preference of the minor.
*The parent’s willingness to foster good education.
*Bonding of the child with the parents.
*Stability of the arrangement for the child.
It is important to note that the judge will look at all of these factors from the perspective of the child: the convenience of wishes of the parents are secondary at all times to the needs of the child.
There are also factors that the judge will NOT consider unless they can be shown to have a direct detrimental effect on the child:
*Sexual conduct of a parent.
*Relative wealth of the parties (may not be considered under any circumstances).
*Physical disability of a parent.
*Religion of a parent.
While there are many factors involved in custody determinations, these are some of the basic guidelines that the judge will consider or disregard under current California law.
DISCLAIMER: All legal principles quoted are valid as of the date of writing in the State of California. However, you should NEVER base your actions on a legal article, blog, or internet story, as facts in real life are complicated. You should have your case evaluated by an attorney experienced in the area of law needed for your case. In addition, there are often exceptions and potential changes to results that occur due to facts that you may think are trivial or unimportant. This article should not be taken in any way as legal advice on your specific legal matter.