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How to Get Full Custody of a Child as a Mother in California?

Divorce can be a difficult and frustrating process. However, it can become even more challenging for couples that share children. What may begin as an amicable discussion about how to divide the time with children can quickly become a heated argument and bring both parents into a courtroom facing a complex litigation. Mothers can share a strong bond with their children and you may be wondering how to get full custody of a child as a mother in California.

While the parent’s gender does not factor into who will receive custody and who won’t, understanding the law can help to fight for the custody of your child.

Custody Types in California

California divides child custody in two ways. These are:

  • Legal custody. Legal custody is the term used to describe the parent who has the decision-making power when it comes to the child. These decisions can include education, healthcare, or other decisions that must be made on behalf of the child. If a parent has sole legal custody, they have the right to make these decisions without considering the other parent.
  • Physical custody. This is used to describe with whom the child primarily lives. If one parent is given sole custody of the child, the other parent will be given specific visitation rights that will be part of the custody agreement or final divorce decree.

Both types of custody can be awarded to either parent as either full or joint custody. Full custody means that parent has the dominant rights to that custody type while joint means the parents will share the custody rights for each category.

Considering the Child’s Interests

One of the main factors used in determining how the custody division will take place is what is considered to be in the best interests of the child. In a divorce, children are often caught in the middle of very difficult arguments and decisions that they were not asked to be a part of. To counter this, the courts will consider a number of factors to keep the child’s interests in mind. These include:

  • The general welfare of the child, including their age, overall health, and safety
  • What the home life of each parent looks or could look like
  • What type of relationship the child shares with each parent
  • In some cases, the court may ask the child with whom they would prefer to live
  • The involvement of the child in the community, including at school
  • The connection of the child to their home or community
  • The financial and physical ability of each parent to care properly for the child
  • Any substance abuse, physical abuse, or other detrimental difficulties either parent faces
  • Any history of neglect displayed by either parent

While these help to provide a picture of the child’s life to the court, another aspect that can help determine what is in the interest of the child is the stability of each parent’s home. Factors that present an overall picture of each home include:

  • The stability financially of each parent
  • The type of emotional and physical safety each home provides
  • Each parent’s ability to provide the basic needs for the child, including food, clothing, shelter, and more
  • The type of emotional care and support each parent can provide
  • How willing both parents are to involve the other in co-parenting

The more one parent can show that the other parent cannot provide a home in the best interests of the child, the more likely they may be to receive sole custody of the child.

Sole Custody

Not all custody cases begin with a divorce. In some cases, a couple may never have been married but may share a child. In cases such as these, if a paternity test was never conducted, then the birthing parent is considered to be the sole parent and, therefore, has the legal sole custody.

In cases where both parents are established, sole custody may be granted if it is in the child’s best interests in order to avoid exposure to substance abuse, neglect, or other situations that challenge the child’s safety and well-being.


Q: Does the Mother Automatically Have Full Custody in California?

A: No, but a mother could be granted sole custody in California. The law does not award custody based on the gender of the parent. If a mother is the only parent listed on a birth certificate, a potential father was never given a paternity test because the couple is unmarried, or the mother provides a home in the best interests of the child, then they could also receive sole custody of the child.

Q: What Do Judges Look for in Child Custody Cases in California?

A: When making both legal and physical custody decisions, judges will look for a number of considerations. These considerations include the child’s connection with both parents, their community, their school, and the safety and security of the home. In addition, they will look at both parents’ ability to provide financially for the child’s basic needs.

Q: What Is the Biggest Mistake in a Custody Battle?

A: Parents involved in custody battles could make many mistakes, but one of the biggest mistakes is their inability to control their emotions during the process. The court’s number one goal is to provide the child with safety and security in whichever home they reside in. This means making a decision in the interests of the child. The inability to control emotions could cause the parent to make decisions that are not in the child’s interests or inaccurately portray their parenting style.

Q: How Long Does a Child Custody Case Take in California?

A: The length of a child custody case in California can vary depending on the circumstances of your case and the willingness of each parent to be active in resolving the matter. Parents who are willing to actively work towards a resolution may find the time it takes to reach a decision could come quickly, while those with multiple children or complex issues to resolve could take much longer.

Child Custody Attorney

Child custody cases are filled with complicated decisions and emotional processes. However, you don’t need to face these alone. If you face a child custody case, contact the attorneys at Hayes Family Law. Our knowledge and experience allow us to help you navigate the difficult process.

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