Whatever your situation, if you anticipate a child custody battle, you may not be familiar with how the family courts handle child custody conflicts. For starters, we want you to know that contrary to popular belief, the courts do not give custody to a mother or father automatically; it doesn’t matter what the sex and age of the children are, the courts take a neutral approach whenever there is a conflict over child custody.
Family Courts Are Neutral
Not only do the family courts take a non-biased approach to child custody cases, but the courts also will not deny a parent’s right to custody or visitation because they were never married to the child’s mother or father. Further, the courts will not deny a parent child custody or visitation because they are physically disabled, or because they have a different lifestyle, different religious beliefs, or because they have a different sexual orientation.
Once the court makes a child custody order in your case, the judge will probably issue a child support order. However, bear in mind that child custody and child support are two separate issues, so one parent cannot refuse to let the non-custodial parent visit with their child if they fall behind on child support.
But it works both ways, a non-custodial parent cannot refuse to pay child support because the other parent won’t let them see their child. In this situation, the non-custodial parent should promptly go to court and ask the judge to enforce his or her parenting time.
Best Interests of the Child Standard
Under California law, judges award custody based on the best interests of the child. When the parents cannot agree on child custody, the judge has to decide for them. When making a decision, the judge carefully considers the following:
The age and health of the child
The age and health of each parent
Each parent’s income and resources
The child’s ties to family and their community
The child’s wishes (if the child is mature enough)
Each parent’s wishes and their reasons for wanting custody
Each parent’s ability to provide and care for their child
The emotional bonds between the child and each parent
Any criminal history or history of substance abuse