9 Factors Southern California Family Law Judges Consider When Making a Child Custody Decision?

During Child Custody proceedings in California Family Law Courts, there are many factors that go into consideration as to whether a parent is unfit.

  1. The level of involvement in the child’s life in the past – How involved in the child’s life has the parent been since the child was born? Are they familiar with the child’s daily routine, life at school, or friends? The judge will take into account who has been the primary caretaker in the child’s life and use this information to inform their decision. A parent who has been more involved with the child as compared to a parent who is not involved will more likely be awarded custody of the child.

  2. How well the parent understands and attends to the child’s needs – Is the parent involved in the child’s life, and if so, do they consider their child’s needs when making decisions? Do they communicate an understanding of those needs to the child and take action to meet those needs? A parent who understands his or her child’s needs will be more likely to get custody.

  3. The child’s feelings toward the parent – Does the child fear the parent? Are they comfortable around them? Do they demonstrate affection or a desire to be with the parent? Prior to age 14, the court considers the child’s feelings and preference towards the parent in granting custody. Once the child is 14, the court takes into account the minor’s desire for how much time is spent with each parent.

  4. Limit-setting that is age-appropriate – Does the parent set limits that are age-appropriate for their child? For instance, do they have curfew or driving rules in place for their teenager? Do they have a bedtime or safety rules in place for their toddler? Parents who demonstrate responsible parenting are more likely to be awarded custody of the child.

  5. How the parent handles conflict with the other parent – How has the parent been managing the divorce and custody proceedings? What were their conflict resolution skills prior to that? Are their actions constructive? A parent who seeks to minimize conflict is generally better received by the court.

  6. Evidence of child abuse– Is there any reason to believe the parent has a history of child abuse, either with the child in question or other children? It goes without saying that child abuse will be a bar to child custody.

  7. History of domestic violence – Have any charges been filed in the past related to violence in the household? Is there a history or restraining orders or protective orders? Is there reason to believe that there might be unaddressed issues with domestic violence in the household? Domestic violence will also very likely be a bar to child custody, particularly if it is directed toward the child.

  8. History of substance abuse – Does the parent currently have a problem with substance abuse or have they in the past? Are they seeking treatment of any kind? Any kind of substance abuse threatens the welfare of the child and is taken seriously during the evaluation.

  9. Mental illness – Does the parent have a mental illness that threatens the welfare of the child? Are they in treatment for it? Mental illness will likely not affect custody decisions if it does not threaten the child’s well-being.

Additionally the courts may take into account opinions of individuals such as teaches, therapists or other adults actively involved in the child's life. The Courts, by law, may not give preference to either gender, nor consider race, sexual orientation, religion, or the financial status of either parent when determining whether a parent is unfit, but data suggests sex and gender do impact judicial decisions in many cases.


No two custody cases are the same and if you find yourself in Family Law Court in Orange, Riverside or San Bernardino Counties, call our office at 951-223-1058 or book a consultation online HERE today.