MANY fathers and mothers have their own ideas of child custody and the standard to which Courts use in determining custody of children. Automatically, most parents believe that the children would naturally go to their mother. This perception is incorrect—the children do not automatically go to the mother. Rather, the Family Code statutes have a standard in determining which parent will be awarded primary physical custody of the children.
The overriding consideration in adjudicating contested custody proceedings is the child’s “best interest.” California courts have wide discretion in determining a parenting plan that would be in the best interest of the child.
The best interest rule does not necessarily mean financial interest or the parent that is able to provide a more luxurious standard of living, rather it encompasses the health, safety, and welfare of the child.
In a contested court proceeding, many factors are presented as evidence to the Court to persuade the Court which parent would be the better parent to provide a nurturing, safe and stable environment for the child or children. Some factors include quality time with the child from each parent, discipline, safety precautions, feelings and desires of each parent, history of parent or child abuse, stability and continuity of environment and sometimes, the child’s own wishes. These are just some of the factors considered by the Court. There are many others that can be presented to the Court depending on your particular circumstances. That is why it is crucial that fact gathering is conducted in a particular case to determine which factors should be presented to the Court. Your situation may be different from another person’s situation that is why outcomes may differ from case to case.
After all the evidence have been submitted to the Court, the Court would then fashion an appropriate custody order that strives to give the child access to both parents, not just one parent. The Court wants to assure that “frequent and continuing contact” with both parents are maintained. Just because the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage does not mean contact with the child or children are dissolved as well. The Courts would like to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities of child rearing even after the relationship between both parents are dissolved.
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Ethelene F. Salas, Esq. is a practicing family law attorney. Ms. Salas is a Filipino-American born in the Philippines, raised in the United States, and speaks Tagalog fluently. The Law Offices of Ethelene F. Salas is located at two locations – the main office at 100 N. Barranca St., Suite 700, West Covina, CA 91791 and affiliated offices at 18000 Studebaker Road, Suite 700, Cerritos, CA 90703. To schedule an appointment with her, please call (626) 858-4646 or visit www.EFS-Law.com