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5 factors that could affect your California custody battle

A judge could take a number of issues – including domestic violence or drug abuse – into consideration when determining child custody in California.

A dispute over child custody is perhaps one of the most emotionally straining issues families in California could face. A custody decision could affect a number of issues, such as the relationship between parents and child, as well as child support. The first item listed in state law is that the best interest of the child will take precedent in decisions.

It is crucial for parents to have an understanding of the factors that could affect the ruling a judge issues. Here are five key items that could come into play:

1. Family violence

Any history of domestic violence on behalf of a parent, spouse, cohabitant or person with whom a parent has a relationship will be taken into consideration. This could directly affect the wellbeing of a child, or at the very least, present a dangerous living environment for the child.

2. Drug or alcohol abuse

The law states that a judge may take into account "habitual or continual" use of any of the following:

  • Prescribed controlled substances
  • Alcohol
  • Illegal use of controlled substances

It typically is not as simple as one parent accusing the other of having an issue. The court may often require documentation of some sort from a law enforcement agency or social welfare agency to corroborate the information.

3. Age and health of the child

Two aspects of the child that could affect a court ruling on child custody would be how old the child is and the child's mental and/or physical health. Consider, for example, a young child with substantial needs due to a physical disability. A judge may make a custody decision based on which parent would be better able to care for the child.

4. Family relationships

Experts agree that children benefit from having solid relationships with each parent. That does not necessarily mean that each parent is guaranteed equal amounts of time, but a judge may determine that each parent should be able to spend quality time with the child. The relationship between the child's parents, even in situations involving divorce, could also play a role.

5. Community ties

The California Courts points out that another issue that could come into play would be the child's connections to community: the area in which he or she lives, or the school where he or she attends, for example. It may not be in the child's best interests to be pulled out of a school where he or she is comfortable. Therefore, a decision could be focused on which parent lives in that area.

It is difficult to look at most child custody disputes and see a clear-cut answer as to how parenting time would be divided. Anyone who has questions about this issue should speak with a family law attorney in California.

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