What Does the “Best Interest of the Child” Mean in California Courts?

If you’re involved in a custody matter or divorce in California, you’ve heard the phrase “the best interest of the child,” which are factors that must be considered before making custodial or visitation determinations. Many factors are weighed when making a custody decision based on the best interest of the child. The factors given the most weight will be those with the most impact on the well-being of the minor in the case of concern.

What Does the “Best Interest of the Child” Mean in California Courts?

Parents have equal rights in court, and they are both entitled to a relationship with their minor children. The court uses best interests of the child factors to ensure each parent is considered fairly. Whether a child will live with both parents equally or live primarily with one parent will be based on the history of the parent’s interactions with their child and other compelling factors. The court strongly prefers an equal parental relationship, so unless there is evidence to support restricting parental access, it’s not commonly done.

Factors Considered in a Best Interest of the Child Determination

When making child custody and visitation determination, the court will consider many issues. The court will listen to the wishes of the minor child in the case if they have reached an age of maturity, typically considered 12 or older. This isn’t a legal standard, and child statements are heard at the discretion of the court on a case-by-case basis.

Here’s a list of factors California courts will take into consideration when making child support and visitation determinations:

  • The child’s wishes if over 12 years old
  • The emotional and mental stability of each parent
  • Any criminal history in each parent’s background
  • The parenting ability of each parent
  • Any history of abuse in the household
  • The child’s overall safety and well-being
  • Any history of drug or alcohol abuse

The court focuses on the parent or guardian’s relationship with the child and whether the relationship was positive before custody proceedings. Additionally, the court will review each parent’s financial health and ability to provide a stable home life for their child. Again, the goal of the court is to provide a child with access to both parents, but if visitation with a parent or guardian isn’t supported by the best interests of the child factors, the court will decide to protect the minor child.

Contact the Attorneys at TRABOLSI | LEVY | GABBARD LLP

At TRABOLSI | LEVY | GABBARD LLP, we understand the complications and stress custody battles can have on the well-being and happiness of your minor child. While our attorneys cannot promise smooth sailing in your case, we can promise to advocate for you and your child. We will work hard to help you secure a positive outcome in your case. Divorce and custody concerns don’t have to be traumatic for you or your child. You can reach out to our child custody attorneys to schedule a consultation today by calling (310) 455-8364 to schedule a consultation.