Child custody refers to the legal rights of parents or guardians to take care of and support the child or children. Custody is usually given to parents or the parent who can raise the child or children in the best environment possible. Unless one parent presents an unsuitable environment for the child, courts will favor a shared custody arrangement. 

Legal responsibility refers to ensuring the child has adequate shelter, medical and educational resources, and protection from emotional, mental, and physical abuse. 

Most states now treat the mother and father equally before the law. As a result, either the mother or father can be granted sole custody of their child. Courts usually consider the child’s best interests when allocating custody. 

California Father’s Rights to Child Custody

Under California state law, mothers and fathers both have the right to seek child custody.

Unmarried parents are also treated equally before the law assuming the father has established paternity.

Courts will usually prioritize the best interests of the child. Consequently, involvement from both parents is considered ideal – unless the court finds one parent to be unfit to care for the child. 

Family courts may also consider additional factors such as financial sustainability and the child’s relationship with each parent. 

The Different Types of Child Custody Arrangements

It’s crucial to be aware of and understand the different types of child custody arrangements available to you before you seek child custody.

Here are the different types of arrangements that exist for all parents:

  1. Sole Custody

To get sole custody of your child or children, you need to prove to the court that the other parent is unfit to care for the child or, for some reason, will not consider the child’s best interest. You’ll need to prove that the parent can’t provide sufficient shelter, educational resources, and medical care to the child, or that they otherwise present a harmful or unsafe environment for the child. 

As a father, you have an opportunity to prove to the court that the child’s mother is unfit to care for the child. Consequently, you could win sole custody of the child. These can be very complex legal cases involving 3rd-party experts to conduct a child custody evaluation

  1. Joint Custody

If both parents seek custody, then courts will usually grant joint custody assuming there are no health and safety concerns. However, both parents may have to demonstrate that they can take care of and support the child. 

Once joint custody is granted, both parents must abide by the joint custody agreement as stipulated by the family court.

  1. Legal Custody

Legal custody refers to when a parent has the legal right to make long-term decisions about the child’s upbringing and welfare.

Parents can get legal custody of their children if the court deems the parent fit to care for the child. There are two types of legal custody – sole and joint custody. Unwed fathers may have to establish paternity in these cases. 

  1. Physical Custody

Physical custody refers to where the child or children will live. Physical custody can be granted to both parents or just one. It’s crucial to consider physical custody during your divorce since it can significantly impact you and your children’s lives further down the line. 

For example, some states may grant the parent physical custody to move away with the children. This may be considered when a parent has to move for employment. In turn, the other parent may have to present to the court why this would be harmful to your children. This can be a complex legal scenario, and you should consider strong legal representation if you are faced with either side of this challenge.

Visit the Westover Law website today if you’re about to go through a divorce or custody case. 

At Westover Law, we understand that divorce is complex, and we want to make sure that you, as a father, are treated fairly and understand your rights. 

Contact us today to learn more about fathers rights to child custody in California.