When our readers in California are going through a child custody family law issue, they probably hear the phrase “best interests of the child” quite often. It is one of those legal phrases that seemingly sets the tone for the whole case, like “beyond a reasonable doubt” does in criminal cases. But, what does “best interests of the child” even mean? Getting to know the basics about child custody can help our readers know what to expect.
Child custody basics
For starters, there are plenty of different factors that can come into play when deciding on child custody. First, can the parents of the child reach an agreement on their own? Family law courts typically prefer if they do, as long as the agreement is reasonable. However, if you are in the middle of a child custody dispute, chances are that you haven’t had much luck agreeing on much of anything with the child’s other parent and, as a result, it may be a judge’s decision on what is in the “best interests of the child.”
“Legal” custody is one aspect of child custody. The parent with legal custody has the right to make important decisions about how they will raise the child, such as where the child will attend school, receive health care, go to church—or any other of a number of decisions on the child’s behalf. “Physical” custody is the other aspect of child custody. Physical custody determines where the child will live and spend time.
What is the optimal decision?
In reality, family law judges who have to make child custody decisions typically prefer “joint” custody for legal and physical custody arrangements—meaning that both parents are, mostly, equally responsible for the child’s upbringing. However, factors such as the relationships between the parties, the parents’ living conditions and income, the presence of violence or alcohol or drug abuse in the household and many other factors will be considered, based on the facts of the individual case in question.