Physical Custody

Parental Gender and Physical Custody of Children in California

There is the misconception that courts side with mothers and always award physical custody of children to them.  This may have been common practice in the past but that is no longer the case.  In California, family law courts are more likely to grant joint physical custody of children.  Changes to California family law are responsible for this new practice.  Specifically, there is a statute that makes it illegal for judges to give custody preference to a parent based solely on gender.  Another change that has impacted this is how child support is determined.  It is now estimated based on the amount of time the child is with each parent.

Judges are no longer allowed to award custody to a particular parent simply because that parent is male or female.  Mothers no longer get full custody of children just because they are the children’s mother. This has forced the courts to examine custodial agreements from the child’s perspective.  A custody arrangement that is in the best interest of the child is the result. And often what is in the child’s best interest is having the same amount of time with each parent.  They are able to form stronger relationships with their fathers who now get more than twice a month visitation with their children.

In addition, courts now have to include the percentage of time the child is with each parent when calculating child support payments.  Parental income is still considered when establishing child support.  This is a fair determination for non-custodial parents.  If they have physical custody of the child much of the time, they should pay less in child support to the custodial parent.

As you can imagine, more fathers now have joint physical custody which, depending upon their proximity to the mothers, could be a 50/50 arrangement.  This means the child is with their mother 50% of the time and with their father the other 50%.  This is a big change from the traditional every other weekend visitation schedule previously established by the courts. Parents must work together to effectively co-parent children after a divorce.

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