Child Custody Factors

Child custody determinations may seem like a straightforward process, but it can actually be an exhausting series of court hearings and family issues. This is especially true when both parents have their own issues towards each other. There are many factors to be considered in these proceedings – some are open and shut cases, while others can drag on for a long time. Thus, the court follows one strict legal standard when dealing with this matter: The best interest of the child.

It can be quite tricky to determine what the best interest of the child is, as it is a broad range of many different factors. It ranges from emotional, to physical, to psychological, and even from past, to present, to future circumstances. At this point, the court turns to the Family Code for guidance, wherein it is provided under Sec. 3011 that the following factors must be considered in making a determination of the best interests of the child:

(a) The health, safety, and welfare of the child;
(b) Any history of abuse by one parent or any other person seeking custody against any of the following:

  • A child to whom he or she is related by blood or affinity or with whom he or she has had a caretaking relationship, no matter how temporary;
  • The other parent;
  • A parent, current spouse, or cohabitant, of the parent or person seeking custody, or a person with whom the parent or person seeking custody has a dating or engagement relationship.
  • (c) The nature and amount of contact with both parents;
    (d) The habitual or continual illegal use of controlled substances or alcohol of either parent;
    (e) Any other factors the court finds relevant.

    Health, Safety & Welfare

    The health, safety, and welfare of the child is always the top priority of the court. Is is a given fact that the custodial parent must be fit to raise the child in a healthy environment and ensure his safety at all times. These types of proceedings are done by the court to guarantee the well-being of the child and that whichever parent or guardian he ends up with will be capable of raising him well. The ‘best interest’ standard allows the child to live the most comfortable life he could possibly have, given the circumstances.

    Abuse

    History of abuse by any person seeking custody is also a consideration in custody determinations. The history of abuse does not only refer to physical abuse against the child whose custody the person seeks, but also to other types of abuse against other children to whom they are related to or is responsible for. The court also checks for history of abuse against the other parent, the person’s current spouse or cohabitant, parents, or partners. Ultimately, the court must secure the child’s safety by doing its best to predict and eliminate the possibility of child abuse.

    However, although there is a reasonable presumption that the person alleged to have a history of abuse will not be granted child custody, such is not always the case. In cases where the court decides to grant child custody in favor of the said person, the court is required to state its reasons on the record or in writing.

    The nature and amount of the child’s contact with both parents is also weighed by the court. The court must consider the type of relation the child has with both parents and whom the feels most comfortable with. This may be measured through the quantity and quality of time spent with either parent. Parent-child relationship plays a big part in custody determinations because in cases where both parents are fit to care for the child, the court must take into account the kind of relationship they have with the child and consider that for the latter’s comfort.

    History of alcoholism and drug abuse also plays a vital role in custody determinations. A parent with a history of alcoholism or abuse of illegal substances may be deemed unfit to care for the child, especially if proven that the said abuse is ongoing. As this is an easy claim to make, drug or alcohol testing is usually done to settle the issue. However, the court requires substantial evidence before acknowledging such allegations of abuse.

    Aside from these factors, the court may take into consideration other things it may deem relevant to the matter at hand. Every Sacramento family law case is different and unique in its own way thus, the court has the discretion to have a thorough assessment of every situation before rendering a decision. If, after the proceedings, the court deems both parents unfit to raise the child, it may explore other options that would be best for the child.

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