Following a divorce in California, if the couple has children, California courts will determine child custody based on the best interests of the child. To determine a child’s best interests, the court will look to various factors before making a custody decision. These factors are set out by statute and are what the courts will look to in deciding child custody:
- The health, safety, and welfare of the child;
- A history of abuse by one parent or anyone seeking custody;
- The nature and amount of contact with both parents;
- Habitual or continual illegal use of controlled substances or alcohol by either parent.
If the parents are able to work out an agreement, known as the parenting plan in California, the court will typically follow the agreement. If the parents choose to make a parenting plan there are steps to follow to complete the plan:
- Fill out the correct court forms;
- Both parents must sign the agreement;
- Have the forms reviewed by a family law facilitator at the court or an attorney;
- Make two copies of the forms;
- The judge must sign the agreement;
- File the forms with the court clerk.
Requesting custody order
However, in California, once a family law case is opened (divorce, separation, or annulment; domestic violence restraining order; petition for custody or child support; child support agency case; or paternity case), one parent can request a custody order by:
- Filling out the correct court forms;
- Having the forms reviewed by an attorney or family law facilitator at the court;
- Making two copies of the forms;
- Filing the forms with the court clerk;
- Getting court date or mediation date from the court clerk;
- Having someone serve papers on the other parent at least 16 days before the court date;
- Having the person who served the papers complete a proof of service and file it with the court clerk;
- Attend the court date or mediation.
The judge can then sign a custody order if he or she feels it is appropriate.
Contacting an attorney experienced in child custody, divorce, and family law cases can help a parent obtain a situation for their children that he or she is comfortable with.