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When a California court needs to decide a child custody matter, the court will consider many different things. However, the most important thing that the court will consider is the best interest of the child or children involved.

In this respect, the best interests of your child will weigh more heavily than any other concerns of the parents.

What courts consider when evaluating best interests

There are a variety of factors courts will consider when deciding issues relating to the best interest of a child. These include:

  • The actual wishes of the child if he or she is old enough and mature enough to express such wishes.
  • Physical and mental states of the parents.
  • Any special needs of the child and how both parents go about assisting with those needs.
  • Cultural and religious concerns.
  • Whether the court's decision will support a stable and continuous home life for the child.
  • Other children in the family.
  • Whether grandparent and other family member support will be available.
  • Other members of the household who will interact with the child.
  • The sex and age of the child.
  • Whether there is a history of domestic violence on the part of either parents.
  • Whether either parent has a history of child, emotional or sexual abuse.
  • Whether either parent has a history of substance abuse.

Examples of decisions based on "best interests"

Is it inconvenient for you to let the other parent visit with your child on Saturdays due to your personal preference? What if it's the only day that the other spouse has available due to his or her work schedule? The court may deem that the child's best interest is to spend time with the other parent, and thereby completely disregard your personal wishes and concerns.

Perhaps the other parent has a long criminal record and you don't think that he or she will be a good influence on your child. The court may see it differently. Mounting evidence exists that children benefit immensely by being in contact with the other parent, so a court may award supervised visits, in which the child can spend time with the other parent in a safe and supervised environment.

The more you consider the best interests of your children, the easier time you'll have of navigating your child custody proceedings.

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