In California, child custody matters are always guided by the best interests of the children, and toward this end, a variety of factors are considered. One primary matter, however, that does not play a role in child custody determinations is the gender of the parent. In other words, California courts do not favor mothers when it comes to awarding custody, and fathers can get full custody. If you are facing a child custody case, it’s time to consult with an experienced California child custody attorney.
The Children’s Best Interests
When it comes to the best interests of children, the prevailing wisdom is that maintaining a strong relationship with both parents and maximizing the time spent with both is preferential – to the degree possible. As such, it is rare for California courts to deny a parent all rights to visitation – barring an important reason for doing so. Because mothers are traditionally more likely to stay home with their children and to spend more time actively parenting, they are, correspondingly, more likely to become the primary custodial parent – but only in accordance with best interest factors, such as how involved each of the parents has been in raising the children to date.
Physical and Legal Custody
In California, custody is addressed in terms of both physical custody and legal custody. Legal custody allocates decision-making authority about matters such as the following:
- Where your children will attend school or daycare
- The religious education your children will receive
- The medical care – related to both their physical and mental health – that your children will receive
- The extracurriculars and travel your children will participate in
- Where your will children make their primary residence
Both parents can make these decisions together, or one can have sole legal custody. Additional options include sharing the responsibility but one parent having tie-breaking authority or divvying the decisions up between you according to the topic at hand.
Physical custody refers to when the children are with one parent and when they are with the other. Full custody typically means primary custody, in which one parent spends the majority of their time with the kids while the other has a visitation schedule. Joint custody, on the other hand, is shared more evenly.
Categories of Visitation Schedules
Visitation schedules fall into several different categories.
Often parents and children alike find it less confusing and stressful to have a set visitation schedule to help ensure that there are no surprises and that everyone knows who is supposed to be where and when. Visitation schedules typically address weekly schedules as well as holidays, vacations, and special occasions such as family birthdays, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day. If you and your children’s other parent can create a schedule that works for your busy family, the court is almost certain to OK it. If not, however, the court is likely to provide you with one of its standard visitation schedules.
Reasonable visitation orders generally refer to a more open-ended arrangement in which the visitation is not set in stone but allows the parents to make arrangements as they go along. Reasonable visitation, in other words, is more likely to be employed when the parents are motivated to cooperate and can get along. In some situations, this approach leads to increased turmoil, which can end up being harder on the children.
When the court determines that unsupervised visitation with one parent can jeopardize their safety or well-being, supervised visits are ordered. The person supervising can be the other parent, another adult, or a professional agency. Sometimes, supervised visitation is implemented when the child and the parent need additional time to get to know one another before unsupervised visits are implemented.
No visitation is reserved for those rare instances in which spending time with one parent – even when carefully supervised – will put the child at risk of physical or emotional harm.
Discuss Your Case with an Experienced California Child Custody Attorney Today
If you are a father who is seeking increased child custody rights or even full custody, you shouldn’t let the fact that you aren’t the mother discourage you. California courts base child custody decisions solely on the best interests of the involved children and do not take the sex of the parent into consideration. A knowledgeable California child custody attorney can help you build your strongest case – in defense of your parental rights and in pursuit of a favorable case outcome.