California takes the best interests of a child into consideration first and foremost when determining custody. Though best interest standards typically dictate that equal and active involvement on both parent’s parts is in the child’s best interests, a legal or physical joint custody arrangement may not be appropriate for your unique situation. At Butler, Thiessen & Metzinger, Inc., we have helped dozens of parents establish custody arrangements that are in the best interests of the children involved.
California has neither a preference nor a presumption for or against joint legal, joint physical or sole custody. The judge presiding over your case is allowed to use his or her widest discretion to establish a parenting plan that is in the best interests of your child. That said, according to the California Family Code Section 3011, there is a rebuttable presumption that it is not in your child’s best interests to enforce a joint custody arrangement if a parent has committed domestic violence. The same is true if you or the other parent has a recent history of habitual or continual abuse of prescribed controlled substances, illegal drugs or alcohol.
Bear in mind that allegations of domestic violence or substance abuse are not enough to win sole custody. Before a judge considers allegations of abuse of either type, he or she may require you to present substantial independent evidence, which may be in the form of written reports from law enforcement, medical facilities, social welfare agencies or other public entities. If your allegations pertain to substance abuse, the judge may also allow evidence in the form of written reports from rehabilitation facilities or public or nonprofit organizations that provide drug and alcohol abuse services.
More information regarding how custody determinations are made in California is available on our web page.