There are two basic guiding policies in determining California child custody laws:
- The court’s primary concern must be the welfare of the children.
- Children benefit the most from frequent and continuing contact with both parents.
This is according to the California Family Code, Division 8, Part 2, Chapter 1. It is only when these two policies are in conflict that the courts will act accordingly to determine what kind of child custody and visitation arrangement ensures the “health, safety, and welfare of the child and the safety of all family members.”
In the state of California, parents have an equal right to their children, with no bias towards mothers nor fathers. The courts prefer when parents can work together to figure out the best way to raise their child. Yet, they will intervene when the parents either cannot figure it out, or when evidence exists proving that one parent is unfit to provide or maintain parental responsibilities.
There is no legal definition for an unfit parent in California. However, the court will appoint evaluators to figure out if a parent cannot fulfill their obligations as a parent. These include evidence of certain criminal activity, incompetence, or the financial or emotional inability to care for a child. If a parent abandoned a child or repeatedly failed to provide proper parental care and protection, they may be declared unfit.
Custody and visitation are among the various things that must be determined when parents separate, when making decisions about the education and caretaking of their children. Custody is either the physical custody of a child (who your child lives with) or the legal custody of a child (who has the right to make decisions for them). Both physical and legal custody may be either joint (shared) or sole.