Child custody is the assignment of guardianship between the parents after a divorce or separation. The guardianship of the child will include the rights and responsibility each parent has in caring for their children. It also addresses matters like visitation, or how much parenting time each parent will get. Child custody and domestic violence laws in California are tricky to navigate, and without the proper legal knowledge and help, one could lose custody of their child.
How is Child Custody Decided?
In child custody cases, neither parents will receive automatic custody of their children. In California, sole custody may be assigned to either parent or, in some cases, both parents may share joint custody.
When determining child custody arrangements, judges must make decisions that reflect one primary concern, the child’s best interests. Courts cannot factor irrelevant elements into consideration when determining child custody. Elements such as immigration status, gender identity, or sexual orientation of a parent will not play a role in deciding the child’s best interest.
To decide what is best for a child, the courts tend to look at several factors such as;
- The child’s age
- The child’s health
- Emotional ties between the parents and the child,
- The ability of the parents to care for the child, and
- The child’s ties to school, home, and his or her community
Once the child’s best interest has been decided, courts will see how they align with each parent’s ability to raise the child. Courts tend to look at;
- History of abuse by the parent seeking custody
- The amount of contact and how close the child has with each parent
- History of drug or substance abuse of both parents
- Child’s preference (if he or she is over 14 years old)
Can Parents Lose Their Rights to Child Custody?
It may come as a surprise, but parents can lose custody of their children under some circumstances. To lose custody of a child generally means a parent will not have the right to legal or physical custody. Further, visitation may be limited or supervised in some cases. Some common reasons to lose child custody can be a consequence of neglect, domestic violence, child abduction, and physical or mental and emotional abuse of a child.
In a lot of cases, child abuse is one of the most common reasons that parents lose custody of their children. Child abuse is defined as any intentional harm or mistreatment to a child under 18 years old. People tend to only associate child abuse with scenarios like parents hitting or slapping their children. When in fact, that is only one form of abuse. Aside from physical abuse, child abuse can take many forms such as;
- Sexual abuse
- Emotional abuse
- Medical abuse
No matter what the form of abuse may be, courts will likely consider acts of intentional harm or mistreatment into consideration when deciding custody and visitation matters.
Abusive Parents and Domestic Violence
In most cases, child abuse is the result of an abusive parent. Other times, abuse can be an indirect result of domestic violence that is occurring in the household. Domestic violence does not always directly harm a child, however, does play a role in the considerations of custody arrangements. In California, there are specific laws that deal with child custody for parents of domestic violence. A case can be treated as a domestic violence case if, in the last 5 years:
- A parent was convicted of domestic violence against the other parent, or
- A court ruled that a parent has committed domestic violence against the other parent or the other children
It is important to note that an abusive parent who committed domestic violence can still be granted sole or joint custody under several conditions;
- Prove to the court that giving joint or sole custody of the child will serve in the child’s best interest
- Has successfully completed the following:
- 52-week batterer intervention program
- A court-ordered substance abuse counseling
- A court-ordered parenting class AND
- Is on probation or parole and has complied with all its terms
- Has followed any restraining orders made against him/her
- Has not committed any further domestic violence
Do I Still Need to Pay For Child Support If I Lose Custody of My Child?
Even when a parent loses custody of a child, they are not fully discharged from other parental duties. Under the law, parents are obligated to care for the child’s well-being until they are able to care for themselves or reach the age of majority. A parent who loses the physical responsibility of a child may still support the child by other means. For instance, In most cases, a parent who is not granted custody or visitation rights will still be obligated to provide financial responsibility for raising a child by paying for child support.
Contact Pride Legal
If you or a loved one has been seeking child custody, we invite you to contact us at Pride Legal for legal counseling or any further questions. To protect your rights, hire someone who understands them.