The rights of fathers and mothers are basically equal in the eyes of the California courts, and the decision is made in favor of the parent that meets the qualifications pursuant to the factors considered by the court in custody proceedings. California custody laws are contained within the California Family Code.
Role of the Court
The court prefers parents to settle the issue of custody themselves. If the parents are not able to agree, the court decides the custody dispute. The court's ruling must be decided in compliance with the California Family Code Sections 3020, 3011, 3040 and 3041. The court is not to show preference to a parent based on gender, but must rule in the best interest of the child according to the state statute criteria in Section 3011.
California courts consider preference of the child and any other factor that may affect the child's physical, intellectual and emotional well-being; which parent is more likely to encourage/permit and allow frequent access to the noncustodial parent; and current and past abusive or violent behavior as defined in the California's Family Code.
Types of Custody
There are four types of custody that can be granted by the court: legal custody (makes official decisions like school and medical), physical custody (child lives with parent), sole custody (parent has both physical and legal custody) and joint custody. Joint custody has a variety of meanings--shared legal custody and one parent having physical custody; parents share both legal and physical custody; and one parent may have legal custody while both parents share physical custody.
Planned Custody Order
Parents have the ability to submit to the court a shared custody plan they both agree on for implementation by the court.
Choosing a Lawyer
Custody disputes are emotional and sensitive issues, so find a lawyer who can understand your position and will handle your case with compassion. Be wary of lawyers who use child-custody actions in attempts to coerce the opposing party to give up more property, or file frequent motions to cultivate conflict to justify an enlarged bill.