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How do California judges determine child custody?

When couples are going through a divorce, it's generally in everybody's best interests if they can work out financial and child custody agreements on their own, with the help of their attorneys or via mediation. If they're not able to do that, a judge will be required to make these crucial decisions for them.

Child custody issues are particularly sensitive. Under California law, judges are expected to consider what is in the best interests of the children when making custody and visitation decisions. This is true both for divorcing couples and for unmarried parents who decide to go their separate ways.

Joint custody of the children is the preferred choice unless that's not possible or not in the children's best interests. If custody is awarded to one parent, judges are supposed to decide which parent will get custody based on which one is more likely to allow the other parent access.

Judges also look at factors such as whether either or both parents has a history of domestic or other violence or has been convicted of child abuse or a sexual offense. A parent's drug or alcohol problem can also factor into the custody decision. If neither parent is deemed to be fit or if neither can take care of the children, judges can grant custody to a suitable person who can provide a good, stable home.

If your custody case is going before a judge, it's essential to have an experienced California family law attorney by your side. He or she can work to effectively present your case and show why the custody arrangement you're seeking is in the best interests of your children.

Source: Sacramento Press, "California Law: Factors Judges Use When Making Child Custody Decisions," Tommy Wyher, Jan. 14, 2016

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