Determining custody of a child in a divorce is often the most emotional and challenging part for parents. In California, most judges encourage parents to come up with their own schedules and agreements, rather than heading to court for a judge to establish child custody. When parents cannot come to an agreement, however, judges must take several factors into account in determining what is in the child's best interest.
Often, when parents must go to court, a judge will look at the relationship each parent has with the child already. He or she may also examine the living situations and moral fitness of each parent. It may also be important to weigh the benefits of maintaining continuity. There are several ways for a parent to demonstrate or improve his or her capabilities as a caregiver.
A parent will want to be as actively engaged in a child's life as possible. By being an active participant, parents can prove that they have made their child a top priority and will continue to do so after the determination of child custody. Taking part in school activities, engaging in the health and wellness of a child and providing a safe environment are all ways that a parent can show he or she is dedicated to a child's well being.
When parents must go to a judge to determine custody arrangements, it is more than just how they interact with the child. A mother or father who is irrational, aggressive or lashes out at the other parent may not appear to be a fit role model for a child. A judge who witnesses this behavior may take that into account.
Whether parents can cooperate and come to an agreement on their own or they need to have a judge determine custody, it is most often preferred that parents have a joint custody arrangement. This way, both parents can be active participants in the upbringing of their child.
Source: The Huffington Post, "How To Divorce: How Do I Get Joint Custody?" Joseph E. Cordell, May 14, 2012