Child custody cases can take months to resolve. Parents may go back-and-forth to create the perfect co-parenting plan that suits their child’s needs. So how does a court decide custody if the parents cannot agree? If parents are unable to reach a child custody agreement, the court will grant a child custody order that they feel is in the best interest of the child. Read on to learn more about how a court decides custody in California and the different factors that come into play in the judge’s decision.

You do not need to hire an attorney to resolve your child custody dispute. Most parents can work together or with a mediator to reach an agreement. A People’s Choice can help prepare an agreed custody agreement or file a custody motion; and most courts offer free mediation services prior to the scheduled hearing. When a motion is filed, an experienced mediator (neutral third-party) will meet with the parents and evaluate the issues objectively. The mediator will foster communication between the parents to help create a parenting plan. Once a plan is reached, a stipulation can be filed with the court for the judge to review and sign.


“Getting a formal custody order in place made such a difference for our family dynamics. The process of mediation allowed each of us, including our older children, to make their concerns known.” T. Watson
“With the help of the mediator and everyone having an open mind, we were able to reach an agreement that both of us felt we could live with, rather than having the judge decide our fate.” T. Watson
“The paperwork prepared by A People’s Choice was so immensely helpful in identifying for the mediator the issues we were struggling with and offering a solution that was easy to understand.” T. Watson

Get Help With Custody Orders!


or call 1-800-747-2780

How Does a Court Decide Custody Disputes?

California judges consider several factors when granting a child custody order. These include:

  • each parent’s relationship with the children
  • which parent has been the primary caretaker in the past
  • each parent’s mental and physical health
  • each child’s mental and physical health
  • evidence of abuse or neglect
  • a detailed understanding of all significant issues relating to the children’s health, safety, education
  • the children’s overall welfare.

For a court to decide custody, the court will evaluate a current status quo custody arrangement and review what the parent’s proposed future custody arrangement holds in comparison to the best interest of the children. California family law also allows teenagers to provide a preference as to which parent they would like to reside with in limited custody disputes.

California Family Code § 3042 states that if a child is of sufficient age and capacity to reason so as to form an intelligent preference as to custody or visitation, the court shall consider, and give due weight to, the wishes of the child in making an order granting or modifying custody or visitation….If the child is 14 years of age or older and wishes to address the court regarding custody or visitation, the child shall be permitted to do so, unless the court determines that doing so is not in the child’s best interests. In that case, the court shall state its reasons for that finding on the record.

Parents know their children best. If you choose to have a court decide custody, keep in mind that the judge, who means well, is a stranger. Why would you want a stranger deciding what is in your child’s best interests? Nevertheless, though the judge may be an outsider, he/she will issue a ruling that is in the best interest of your children “in their opinion.” Most judges will make every effort to maintain custody conditions that closely resemble the pre-divorce routine.

How Mediation is Used to Resolve Custody Disputes

A People’s Choice highly recommends the use of mediation in resolving child custody disputes. There are many benefits of using mediation to reach a custody agreement. In California, when a Request for Order is filed regarding child custody, the court requires parents to attend mediation prior to the court hearing. Mediation provides parents an opportunity to discuss and resolve issues relating to the best interest of their children.  Mediation is confidential and is conducted by experienced mediators who assist parents by facilitating a cooperative dialogue focusing on the important needs of the children.  Depending on the age of the children, they may also be able to speak to the mediator and share their desires and wishes regarding which parent they would like to live with. It is the responsibility of the court mediator to create a safe, neutral environment in which parents can agree on what is in the best interest of the children. Parents can use a private mediator in lieu of using a court appointed mediator.

Contact A People’s Choice for more information on how to resolve your custody dispute outside of court. If you are having child custody and visitation disputes, choosing the court to decide custody may not turn out the way you think. Remember, when you go to court, you let the judge decide what is in your child’s best interest, which may not really be the best solution.

Get help with your Legal documents today!

A People’s Choice can save you hundreds of dollars by preparing your legal documents instead of an expensive attorney!


Was this article helpful? We would love to know your thoughts! If you found this article helpful, please check the LIKE button below. Your feedback helps us plan topics for future articles.