Rather than being governed by federal law, family law matters in California fall under state law. However, it is not necessarily helpful to consider cases or precedents established elsewhere since family law also varies from state to state. When divorcing parents need to address child custody, they should be certain that they understand California family law and how it applies to their situation.

First and foremost, the court always prioritizes a child’s best interests. No two families in California are the same, so figuring out what those best interests are will always be a unique process. For example, a judge may consider a child’s family or home situation and whether certain decisions might be detrimental.

I mediating, parents must make several custody decisions that should support the best interests of their child. These include things like the child’s age, his or her health, emotional bonds, ties to the community and more. Even the emotional or financial ability of a parent to care for a child are important factors in custody decisions. A judge will consider these factors should a divorcing couple go to court.

Courts will not favor one parent over the other because of gender, either. Under California law, things like gender, physical disabilities, sexual orientation, religion and lifestyle cannot be used as reasons to either award or withhold custody. Barring any extenuating circumstances, both mothers and fathers can enter the custody process on roughly equal footing.

Divorce is already a tumultuous experience. Addressing child custody rarely makes this process any easier, but it is important to remain well-informed and assertive throughout the process. A parent who feels as if he or she is having trouble upholding a child’s best interests may benefit from speaking with an experienced attorney.