Factors Courts Consider When Determining Child Custody in California

Child custody is often one of the most hotly-contested issues amongst a divorcing couple. In the ‘old days’, custody was almost always awarded to the mother, who had the primary responsibility of raising the children during the marriage. Times, however, are certainly changing, affecting which parent receives both primary custody and spousal support when the couple divorces. Not only are the number of working moms at near-record levels (approximately 70% according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics), especially in metropolitan cities like Los Angeles, but also nearly 30% of working wives now out-earn their working husbands, making them the primary breadwinners. If this is your situation, discuss your legal rights and options with an experienced Los Angeles family law attorney.

If you are a wife, mother, and the family breadwinner, and you are seeking primary custody of your children, there are a few factors you may want to consider before filing for divorce.  Generally speaking, one of the goals of family law is to ensure that the children are relatively undisturbed by the divorce, and courts often use a standard that gives the ”best interests of the child” the highest priority when deciding custody issues. Factors the court looks at include:

  • The child’s age, sex, and mental and physical health
  • The parent’s mental and physical health
  • The parent’s lifestyle and other social factors
  • The emotional bond between parent and child, as well as the parent’s ability to give the child guidance
  • The parent’s ability to provide the child with food, shelter, clothing, and medical care
  • The child’s established living pattern (school, home, community, religious institution)
  • The quality of the child’s education in the current situation
  • The impact on the child of changing the status quo
  • The child’s preference, if the child is above a certain age

Therefore, if the father has assumed (whether in reality or by appearances) the stay at home dad role during the marriage, it’s possible that the court will maintain the status quo when awarding custody, giving the father 50% of the time, or in some instances the majority of the time.

If you are a working mother who wants to secure primary custody of your children after your divorce, reach out to an experienced family law attorney who can guide you. Even if you are still responsible for a majority of the care-taking inside the home, it may be helpful to consider increasing your physical presence at your children’s activities, school, and other events where potential ‘influencers’ in the determination of your child custody arrangement (teachers, coaches, etc…) can witness firsthand your hands-on involvement in your children’s lives.

For more information on issues relating to child custody, or to discuss steps for filing for divorce in California, contact the skilled family lawyers at Walzer & Melcher today.