When it comes to divorce and child custody in California, the law does not give preferential treatment to mothers. In fact, California law has a distinct bias in favor of joint custody. The law presumes that the child’s best interest is served by consistent contact with both parents. Ideally, parents going through divorce proceedings negotiate a workable custody and visitation agreement; if they are unable to do so, the parents are typically required to enter mediation.
But there are certain exceptions to the co-parenting rule of thumb. For example, a mother may be awarded sole custody if her spouse has a history of domestic violence, child abuse, drug use, alcohol abuse. If the child is a teenager and prefers to live with their mother, the judge will consider their wishes. When you meet with your divorce attorney, be prepared to talk about your relationship with your children and your spouse’s relationship with your children, as well as any evidence you might have regarding your spouse’s problematic behavior. Your divorce attorney will be able to evaluate the information and determine whether you have grounds to contest joint custody.
If a mother is awarded sole legal or physical custody, the non-custodial parent is still responsible for contributing to the children’s financial support. Custody, visitation, and child support issues are finalized in divorce proceedings, although they can be revisited in the years following the divorce. Keep in mind, however, that the court looks favorably upon what has worked to date. In other words, if the current schedule is working for the children, the court might be hesitant to change it without good cause.
If the mother is unmarried, California law dictates that she has sole legal and physical custody of her child, and can control the type and frequency of contact with the father. If she wishes to and is able to establish paternity, either through the father’s voluntary legal declaration or through a paternity test, the mother is entitled to receive child support from the father.
If you’re ready to talk about your maternal rights or anticipate that your divorce will include a contested child custody arrangement, call Griffith, Young & Lass at 858-345-1720 for your free consultation.