When it comes to child custody decisions in California, the courts are the most concerned with what is in the child’s best interest. Since divorce can be an emotionally overwhelming experience for all involved, the child’s home and family circumstances can have a significant impact on their life moving forward.
The “best interests” of a child means that all custody and visitation decisions are made with the purpose of fostering and encouraging the child’s well-being, happiness, mental health, security, and emotional development into young adulthood. While maintaining a close and loving relationship with both parents is ideal, that may not be the case if it’s in the child’s best interests.
The following are the common factors which determine the best interests of the child:
- The age and sex of the child
- The wishes of the child, if old enough to properly express a reasonable preference
- The health, safety, and well-being of the child
- The mental and physical health of the parents
- The special needs of the child and how each parent takes care of those needs
- Religion and cultural considerations
- Adjustment to the school and community where the child lives
- Need for continuation of a stable home environment
- Support and opportunity for interaction with extended family members of either parent
- Other children whose custody is relevant to this child’s custody arrangement
- Evidence of one or both parents being involved in drug, alcohol, or child/sex abuse
- The possibility of a pattern of domestic violence at home
- The parent’s use of excessive discipline and emotional abuse