Like all good parents in California and across the country, you want what is best for your kids, especially now that you and your spouse have decided to file for divorce. You’re headed toward proceedings knowing that you and your ex must resolve numerous issues related to your children’s well-being. You might also be one of many parents who plan to seek sole child custody because you believe your ex is unfit.
The court always has children’s best interests in mind when it makes child custody decisions. Safety is a primary concern. If a judge determines that children are at risk in the presence of a particular parent, he or she may grant sole legal and physical custody to the other parent. Requesting sole custody and demonstrating reasonable cause, however, are two separate issues.
Issues that create unfitness for child custody
The issues shown in the following list are examples of reasons a California family court judge might grant sole child custody to one parent over the other:
- A parent is addicted to drugs or alcohol.
- There is evidence of domestic violence or child neglect.
- A parent has abandoned the children, even prior to the divorce.
- A parent has been convicted of a violent crime or is incarcerated.
In some cases, such as when substance abuse is an issue, a judge might decide to restrict a parent’s privileges rather than revoke them. For example, you might request sole custody, but the judge might grant your ex the privileges for supervised visits.
If child custody problems arise after a court order has already been issued
As you and your children adapt to a post-divorce lifestyle, you may encounter challenges, especially if unexpected changes occur in your lives. You might experience a job change and have to move to a new location. Perhaps you and your ex have been sharing child custody, but problems have arisen that compel you to seek modification of your existing court order.
The court may use its discretion to determine whether it is in your children’s best interests to modify the terms of agreement in your co-parenting plan. If you believe that your ex has become unfit, gather as much evidence as possible to substantiate your allegations. If there is another reason why you want to modify the agreement, you must demonstrate just cause, meaning convince the court that you have a legitimate reason for seeking the change.