What Factors Does the Court Not Consider In Making Custody Orders?

What Factors Does the Court Not Consider In Making Custody Orders?

Child custody can be a controversial issue, but it’s crucial to understand that the court’s main objective is always the best interest of the child.

The California Family Code outlines the factors that judges must take into account when deciding on child custody.

It’s equally essential to know what the court does not consider.

This includes not factoring in the marital status, physical disability, religion, gender identity, sex, or sexual orientation of either parent.

Parental Conflict and Personal Disputes

One might think that the court would side with the parent who seems to have fewer disagreements with their ex-spouse. However, that’s not the case.

The court’s primary focus is on what’s best for the child. If parents can’t mutually decide on a parenting plan, then it’s up to the judge to decide.

Here’s what the judge primarily considers:

  • The child’s age and health
  • Emotional ties between the child and parents
  • The child’s connections to their school, home, and community
  • Each parent’s ability to care for the child
  • Any history of family violence
  • Substance abuse by either parent

All these factors collectively determine what’s in the child’s best interest, as noted by the Self-Help courts.

As for parents, it’s best to keep personal disputes separate from custody decisions. Doing otherwise might shift focus from the child’s well-being.

Curious about how to get custody of a child? We guide our clients through these procedures, helping them navigate the complexities of family law.

Financial Status and Child Support

It’s a common misconception that the one with a heavier wallet has a higher chance in custody battles. But that’s far from the truth.

Child support is designed to help with a child’s living and medical expenses until adulthood.

It’s the shared responsibility of both parents, regardless of their financial standings, as stated by a California’s Child Support Services webpage. And while child support and child custody might seem intertwined, they are determined separately.

Being up-to-date with child support payments also doesn’t guarantee custody if it’s not in the child’s best interest.

Child support is calculated based on various income sources, including wages, commissions, rental income, social security, and even lottery winnings.

The amount of time a child spends with each parent also affects the support sum.

For more clarity, visit courts.ca.gov

Fair Distribution of Financial Responsibility

Both parents are legally bound to support their child, and the court plays an active role in ensuring that this responsibility is fairly distributed.

In cases where parents disagree on the amount of child support, the court steps in.

It establishes the support amount based on the state’s guidelines, the combined income of both parents, and the time the child spends with each.

California calculates child support using this formula: CS = K (HN – (H%)(TN), as noted by DivorceNet.

Let’s break it down:

  • CS stands for the child support amount. This is the final result that tells you how much needs to be paid for one child’s support. If you need to figure out support for more than one child, you’ll do a bit more math afterward.
  • K represents the portion of the combined income of both parents that should go towards child support. To find out this amount, there’s another formula that looks at both parents’ earnings and how much time the parent who earns more spends with the child. As parents earn more money, this percentage can increase.
  • HN means high net, referring to the monthly income of the parent who earns more, after accounting for necessary expenses.
  • H% is a way of expressing how much time the higher-earning parent is responsible for the children, in comparison to the other parent. If there are different custody arrangements for different kids, you’d find an average time spent for H%.
  • TN is the total income of both parents combined, after accounting for necessary expenses.

Our experienced family law attorneys provide expert guidance in navigating the complexities of California’s support laws.

Religious or Cultural Differences

Religion or cultural backgrounds should not play a role in child custody decisions.

Still, there are complications when parents from different faiths have contrasting beliefs about their child’s religious upbringing.

While parents have the right to raise their children in their chosen religion, children don’t have equal rights in choosing their own.

A child’s preference may sometimes be considered, especially if they lean towards a parent who respects their chosen religious beliefs or doesn’t force religious practices on them.

Parental Gender or Marital Status

Let’s debunk myths regarding biases related to parental gender or marital status in custody cases.

Society’s view of fatherhood has evolved significantly, with a shift from seeing fathers solely as breadwinners to recognizing them as emotionally engaged caregivers. The Myths and Stereotypes in Family Law research conducted by The Freda Center is a great read on this.

However, there is still debate about whether this shift in perception has led to a change in fathers’ actual contributions to caregiving.

In both single-parent and dual-parent families, women continue to take on the primary caregiving role. Some might even argue that family law processes are biased towards mothers.

Courts, however, strive for impartiality in custody cases, ensuring mediators are impartial, competent, and adhere to established standards of practice.

Psychologists play a critical role in giving competent and impartial opinions that prioritize the child’s best interests.

Parental Disapproval of the Other Parent’s Lifestyle

When it comes to parental disapproval of the other parent’s lifestyle, personal lifestyle choices are generally not considered in custody decisions.

Non-Custodial Parent’s Access to the Child

The court will ensure that both parents have access to the child, as this is generally in the child’s best interest. However, protecting the child’s welfare comes first.

Visitation rights may be denied, suspended, or restricted if the child’s physical, mental, or emotional well-being is at risk. Specific situations, such as violence, substance abuse, and mental illness, will affect visitation rights.

Additionally, a parent’s unwillingness to support such a relationship may be viewed unfavorably by the court.

Extended Family and Third-Party Opinions

The court prioritizes the child’s relationship with their parents over the opinions of the extended family. However, third-party input, such as recommendations from custody investigators or psychologists may be considered in certain circumstances to give a better view of the family dynamics.

Bottom Line

In summary, the court does not typically consider factors such as the parent’s gender, race, physical disability, religion, sexual orientation, or sexual relations when making custody court orders.

The focus remains on the child’s best interests and adhering to legal standards.

For more information on custody and visitation rights, or to discuss your specific situation with a legal professional, get in touch with us today.


How does the court determine what is in the “best interests of the child”?

The court considers a variety of factors to determine what is in the child’s best interests, including the child’s age and health, emotional ties with both parents, each parent’s ability to provide and care for the child, and any history of substance abuse or violence. The child’s ties to their community, school, and home are also taken into consideration.

Can parental rights be denied based on marital status or gender?

No, marital status, gender, sexual orientation, and other similar factors cannot be used to deny parental rights. The court’s primary concern is the child’s welfare, and decisions are made based on the child’s best interests rather than the parents’ characteristics or lifestyle choices.

What is the role of third parties or extended family in custody decisions?

While the court’s primary concern is the relationship between the parents and the child, input from neutral third parties such as custody investigators or psychologists may be considered. These professionals give insights into the family dynamics and the child’s preferences, helping the court make a more informed decision.

How can a non-custodial parent ensure they maintain a relationship with their child?

The court supports the child maintaining a relationship with both parents, as long as it is in the child’s best interests. Non-custodial parents should actively engage with their children, comply with court orders, and remain committed to supporting their child’s wellbeing.

What situations may lead to restricted visitation rights for a non-custodial parent?

Visitation rights may be restricted or denied if there is substantial evidence that spending time with the non-custodial parent would harm the child’s physical, mental, or emotional well-being. This could be due to violence, substance abuse, mental illness, or other detrimental behaviors.

DISCLAIMER: This information is made available by Happ Law Group P.C. for educational purposes only as well as to provide general information and a general understanding of California law, not to provide specific legal advice. If you are in need of advice about your specific situation, you should consult with a California family law attorney.