How is Child Custody determined under California Law?


In California, custody of a child will be determined by making decisions that are in the best interest of the child.

In understanding and “making a determination of the best interest of the child,” California Family Code Section 3011 becomes relevant.  For instance, this section of the law explains the factors a judge may take into consideration when determining what the “best interests” of the child actually are.  These factors include, but are not limited to:

  • The health, safety, and welfare of the minor child;
  • Any history of familial abuse committed by the person seeking custody against a family member who has a caretaking relationship, a spouse, parent, current spouse, cohabitant, partner or person seeking custody, etc.
  • The nature and frequency of contact between the parents and the child; and
  • Any habitual or continual use of prescription drugs, alcohol or controlled substances by either parent.

Because child custody is a complex matter, self-help might not be the way to go.  Oftentimes the parents have very different ideas about what is in the child’s best interests, and a hearing (sort of a “mini trial”) has to be put on before the court.  This leaves the decision-making up to a judge, which can leave both parents somewhat dissatisfied.  In such a case, it is advisable to seek an experienced family law attorney to ensure that not only are your child’s needs met — but that taken as a whole, despite the graveness of the matter, your child’s “best interest” is really taken into consideration.


 Authored by IRWIN & IRWIN.

IRWIN & IRWIN Family Law is located in Fullerton and Newport Beach, California.  We provide a full suite of family law services from divorce litigation, divorce mediation, child custody issues, domestic violence restraining orders and representing minors in court.  “Every situation is different, and some come with very complex financial issues.  Our legal team is here to support you during a very troubling time and prepare you for court, or to at least help negotiate or mediate the issues out to establish an equitable legal resolution,” says Kelly Irwin, Senior Litigator at the firm.