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What Judges Look at When Determining Child Custody


When it comes to a divorce and the child custody questions that can come with that, you should expect that the court’s overriding interest is going to be endeavoring to ensure that the child’s best interests are met. In making their considerations, you can expect a judge to consider a number of common factors.

Items Judges Commonly Consider in Custody Decisions

Every family court case and custody proceeding is different, and individualized analysis will be required on the part of the judge. With that being said, the following items are commonly considered by family law judges when they are making a child custody order:

  • Age of the child in question: a younger child or infant will typically need more one-on-one care. Accordingly, a judge may award more custody time to the parent who is the child’s main caregiver.
  • Existing Routines: How has the child been spending their time? Is the child used to going back and forth? A 50/50 custody split? Alternatively, has one parent had the child 100% of the time save for the odd weekend that the other parent comes into town?

A judge will likely consider the child’s established routines and relationships when determining custody arrangements.

  • Parental capacity: Are both parents able to responsibly meet the child’s emotional and physical needs? Can they provide a safe shelter? Food, clothing, etc? The child’s best interests are paramount.
  • Consistency: Children thrive on routine. Similar to what was stated above, a judge will likely be hesitant to disrupt a thriving child’s established routine, unless there is a compelling reason to do so.
  • The child’s safety: A parent must be able to fill a child’s needs, and recognize when there is a need that must be filled. If a parent is unwilling or unable to recognize when a child may be in danger or need assistance from the parent then the custody rights of that parent will in all likelihood come into question.
  • Child’s Preference: If a child is of sufficient age and capacity to form an intelligent preference regarding custody, the court must consider and give due weight to the child’s wishes in making determinations regarding custody. The child’s age alone is not determinative of whether the child’s wishes must be considered and weighed.

Document, Document, Document

If your child is thriving in an established routine – have the documentation to prove it. A judge will not simply take a parent’s word for it when there are many ways for parents to document and prove such things, such as using an excel spreadsheet or bringing copies of text messages, emails, photos, etc.. A judge will hesitate to unduly disrupt the successful routine and life of a child to accommodate the wishes of a parent.

Contact Cardwell, Steigerwald Young

Our experienced team can help you understand your legal options and pursue the custody arrangement that your family needs. Contact our San Francisco child custody and visitation lawyers today to begin discussing your own unique case.


What the Child’s Best Interest Standard Means in Court (verywellfamily.com)


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