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Custody and the best interests of the child

Parents in California may benefit from learning more about evaluating the best interests of the child as it relates to child custody. Evaluating the best interests of the child is the top priority when determining custody arrangements or placement for a child. Every state in the country has established laws that require family courts to consider the best interests of the child when considering placement, custody or other issues that could be critical to the child's livelihood.

In order to modify an existing custody arrangement or take a child from a parent, family courts must consider the action to be in the best interests of the child. Family courts may prefer to reunite a children with their parents when possible, unless it is not in the best interests of the child. California courts may also remove a child from the home if the action is considered to be for the child's protection or safety.

California law may require the child to be placed with a relative if the parents lose physical custody due to a court order. State laws commit to seeking the most family-like and least restrictive environment for children subject to out-of-home placement. Family courts may develop alternative measures if the child cannot be reunited with the parents. California law also considers it a priority for public entities and agencies to contribute toward ensuring that children are receiving adequate educational opportunities.

Parents who need more information about child custody laws may benefit from consulting with a family law lawyer. Legal counsel may be able to evaluate the circumstances and help determine the course of action that is in the best interests of the child. Lawyers may also be effective in acting as an intermediary or assisting with the negotiation process.

Source: Child Welfare Information Gateway, "Determining the Best Interests of the Child", December 15, 2014

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