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What is the standard for determining primary custody?

No matter what life event a person is going through, no parent wants to see his or her child less. Nonetheless, parents in California that decide to divorce are required to sort through some challenging topics and decisions. One of these is child custody.

While it is likely that both the mother and the father desire to be awarded physical custody of their children, this ideal scenario is not always a reality. A parent might request to be the primary caretaker, requiring them to prove to the court that they meet the standards and is in the child's best interests.

What is the standard for determining primary custody? When a parent requests to be awarded primary custody, the family court will allow for this preference if that parent can demonstrate either that he or she was the primary caretaker of the child during the marriage or has assumed that role in general.

Courts recognize when such a relationship exists, there is an emotional bond between the parent and child. Thus, psychologists have strongly encouraged courts to continue this relationship to foster psychological stability.

When courts are assessing which parent is the primary caretaker, they will look at certain responsibilities and tasks carried out by each parent. This includes tasks, such as bathing grooming and dressing, purchasing clothes and laundry responsibilities, meal planning and preparation, encouraging participation in extracurricular activities, conferencing with teachers, attending open houses, teaching the child to read, write and math skills, help with homework, planning and participating in leisure activities with the child.

But, when a parent requests to be a primary custodian, the court must also assess the best interests of the child. This includes looking at certain factors such as the child's wishes, the physical and mental health of the parents, the religious preferences of the parents and child, the need for a continuous stable home environment, the opportunity to interact with member of the child's extended family, adjustment to school and the community, the age of the child and other similar factors.

Whether one seeks joint or primary custody of a child, it is important that one is aware of their rights and options. Even if a less than ideal custody arrangement results at the end of the divorce process, parents should understand that they have the ability to seek modification of this order.

Source: Findlaw.com, "Preference for the "Primary Caretaker," accessed on Aug. 27, 2017

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